20.1. How to Detect User
we move on to discuss how to detect user agents, let's first have a
look at the steps involved in a typical request-response cycle
between a server and a client browser:
WAP browser requests an XHTML MP page from the server.
server receives the request and delivers the XHTML MP document to
the WAP browser.
WAP browser receives the XHTML MP document and finds that it
contains a <link> tag that references to an external cascading
WAP browser sends another request to the server in order to obtain
the WAP CSS cascading style sheet.
server receives the request and delivers the WAP CSS cascading style
sheet to the WAP browser.
WAP browser receives the WAP CSS file and displays the XHTML MP page
according to the style information contained in the WAP CSS file.
steps repeat when the user selects an anchor link or types a new URL
in the WAP browser.
you can see from above, the only thing that the server receives from
the client is the HTTP request. So, to determine the client's user
agent, the server needs to rely on the information included in the
HTTP request. Below shows a HTTP request example. It is a HTTP
request generated by the Nokia 6230 emulator (some headers that are
irrelevant to user agent detection are omitted).
Nokia6230/2.0 (03.14) Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1
the profile header and the user-agent header can be used for user
profile header holds the URL to the UAProf (User Agent Profile)
document of the wireless device. The UAProf document contains
information about the wireless device's characteristics and
capabilities such as screen size, character sets supported, number of
softkeys supported, etc. The details of the profile header and the
UAProf document is out of the scope of this section and it will be
covered in a future article.
user-agent header includes information like the wireless device's
name, platform, Java capabilities, etc. The format of the user-agent
header value is different for different brands of browsers. For
example, the user-agent header format generated by Nokia mobile phone
browsers are different from that generated by Sony Ericsson mobile
phone browsers. Here is a user-agent header generated by Sony
that the user-agent header format may also vary among browsers of the
same brand, although the variations are usually small.
is the user-agent header found in a HTTP request generated by
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 2000:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0)
a general rule, you should find the brand name of a mobile phone in
its user-agent header value. For example, you should find the brand
name "Nokia" in the user-agent header generated by a Nokia
mobile phone, and you should find the brand name "SonyEricsson"
in the user-agent header generated by a Sony Ericsson mobile phone.
you find the word "Mozilla" in the user-agent header value,
then the client browser should be a desktop web browser like Mozilla
and Microsoft Internet Explorer. (Note that we have simplified things
a bit here. Actually, the existence of the word "Mozilla"
in the user-agent header value only indicates that it is very likely
that the user agent is a desktop web browser, but does not mean it
must be a desktop web browser. For example, some Nokia Series 60
mobile phones include the word "Mozilla" in their
user-agent header to indicate that they are web-capable. However,
note that the brand name "Nokia" is still present in their
user-agent header value.)
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