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IWMW 1999: Browser management

Slides for talk given at IWMW 1999 held at Goldsmiths College on 7-9 September 1999.

See http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-sep1999/materials/browser-management/

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IWMW 1999: Browser management

  1. 1. Browser Management Brett Burridge Computing Service, University of Essex, Colchester, UK
  2. 2. Scope of presentation • Why have a browser policy? • What browsers are there to choose from? • Using browser administration kits • Modifying the browser interface • Browser security • User Agent negotiation • A few new developments to watch...
  3. 3. Why have a browser policy? • Most institutions will have a clearly defined list of which applications are supported (e.g. spreadsheet, word processor etc.) • Should there also be a policy for web browsers? – Difficult to provide in depth user support for a large range of browser versions – Difficult to develop Intranet apps on a wide range of different systems – Browsers could be a big security risk, especially for staff working with confidential information etc. – May not want staff installing their own browsers - can lead to problems for support staff
  4. 4. 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Jan-96 Jul-96 Jan-97 Jul-97 Jan-98 Jul-98 Jan-99 Policy No Policy Browser policies • An increasing number of companies specify which browser employees should use: Data from ZonaResearch (zonaresearch.com)
  5. 5. Browser policies Data from ZonaResearch (zonaresearch.com) • Of those with browser policies, an increasing number recommend Internet Explorer: 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Apr-96 Oct-96 Apr-97 Oct-97 Apr-98 Oct-98 Apr-99 IE Netscape Other
  6. 6. What browsers are your users using? • Knowing the answer to this is important... – Your web designer(s) will find it useful – You need to make sure your users don’t have obsolete web browsers • Requests to web servers should contain a HTTP_USER_AGENT header (e.g. Mozilla/4.5 [en] (WinNT; I)) – Most server log analysis programs (e.g. Analog) produce detailed browser reports – On IIS servers, use the Browser Capabilities component to automatically parse the user agent header
  7. 7. Browser survey - overview Essex users Other users • Used IIS Browser Capabilities component to record all sessions to our main IIS NT server over 4 days in August 1999 • Quite a small scale study (2786 sessions)
  8. 8. Browser survey - operating systems 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% essex(1188sessions)other(1598sessions) WinNT Win98 Win95 Win16 MacPPC Mac68K Linux UNIX Unknown WinNT Win98 Win95 ?
  9. 9. Browser survey - Internet Explorer by version 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% essex(733sessions)other(1056sessions) IE 2.0 IE 2.1 IE 3.0 IE 3.01 IE 3.01a IE 3.02 IE 3.03 IE 4.0 IE 4.01 IE 4.5 IE 5.0 IE 5.01 IE 5.0b1 IE 5.0b2 5.04.01
  10. 10. Browser survey - Netscape by version 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% essex(445sessions)other(415sessions) 1.1 2 2.01 2.02 3 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 4 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.5 4.51 4.6 4.61 3.0 3.0 4.01 4.54.06 4.64.04
  11. 11. Browser survey - statmarket.com statistics (1) • Essex survey resembles statistics from other sites: Data from statmarket.com
  12. 12. Browser survey - statmarket.com statistics (2) • Some more statistics... Data from statmarket.com
  13. 13. • Increasing reluctance to upgrade – More non-computer experts using the web – Latest browsers don’t have any essential new features – Browser downloads get ever larger “Conservatism of Web users” Data from useit.com
  14. 14. Which web browsers are worth supporting? • Is it even worth considering… – Opera? – New Netscapes? – Lynx? – Others? • According to Zona Research we have a “Coke and Pepsi world” in the browser market.
  15. 15. Netscape vs. Internet Explorer • Netscape – Available for a wide range of platforms – Users are familiar with the product – But… • Netscape not exactly the same on all operating systems • Still no support for XML/Data Binding etc. etc. etc. • Massive loss in market share over the last 12 months • Internet Explorer – Now more popular than Netscape – Integrates well with Windows (some applications require it) – Companies are choosing it for DHTML, databinding, XML support and other technologies – Good accessibility features – But… • It’s from Microsoft! • Only the Windows versions have all the features
  16. 16. Opera • Small download & installation. Works on old machines • Good accessibility features • Non-Netscape or Microsoft product • Have to pay for it • Difficult for people used to other browsers • No administration kit (and a charge for customisations)
  17. 17. Mozilla • In early 1998 Netscape source code released • Mozilla is the term for browsers derived from this code • But... – The current version has plenty of bugs – Development has not gone as well as hoped. Will probably be another 6 months before anything substantial is produced - if ever?
  18. 18. Palm tops/mobile phone devices • Gimmicks or the next big thing? – The latest Palm VII connected organiser has wireless access to parts of the Internet – Many palmtops allow downloading of web pages – Mobile phones are gradually turning into web appliances • Essex home page in IE5 (WinNT) and AvantGo (PalmOS):
  19. 19. WebTV • Another gimmick, or the future of home Internet access? • Currently only available in USA, Canada & Japan • Authoring for WebTV has many considerations...
  20. 20. • Make simple modifications: – change homepage URL – specify web cache settings – install other apps at same time (e.g. Acrobat Reader) • Also make more complex modifications: – specify which components to install – enable or disable features (e.g. enforce cache usage) – make “kiosk mode” browsers • Both Netscape and IE have free administration kits Uses of browser administration kits
  21. 21. Availability of browser administration kits • Netscape Customization Kit – Available for PC and Mac only – No Unix or Linux version • Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) – IEAK for Windows makes IE4/5 for Windows 3.x, 95, 98, NT 4 and Unix. – IEAK for Mac makes Mac versions – IE5 version better than IE4 version: • Can save previous settings more easily • More can be customised (including browser’s toolbars) • Includes foreign language support
  22. 22. Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) • Synchronise to the latest version of the browser...
  23. 23. Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) • Specify various installation options...
  24. 24. Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) • Customise a large number of other settings...
  25. 25. Using the Netscape Customization Kit • Use the Configuration Editor to set program options • The Install Builder will build the application with the specified options
  26. 26. Modifying the browser interface • Modifications to both Netscape and IE quite easy (i.e. adding toolbar buttons & menu links) • Simple modifications to Essex version of IE5: Customised search panel Preset “favorites”
  27. 27. Browser security • What to do if a significant security hole is discovered? – Windows Update|Netscape’s SmartUpdate for individual machines – SMS or other apps for managing lots of machines – Don’t do anything because it doesn’t matter? • Most browser security problems caused by users surfing dubious sites • Automatic downloading of Excel Word files a problem (ensure a virus checker is installed) • Fake updates to programs always a problem • Stealing of data through “cut and paste” bugs?
  28. 28. User Agent negotiation • The Browser Capabilities component of IIS converts HTTP_USER_AGENT headers into a list of properties that can be used in Active Server Pages... • Could also use JavaScript to determine many of these properties
  29. 29. Uses of User Agent negotiation • Example 1 (JavaScript): Essex website only loads CSS in Netscape 4+ and IE4+ (with a different CSS used for UNIX versions of Netscape). • Example 2 (ASP): visit Essex website in a non-English browser and get a link to a localised welcome page...
  30. 30. Summary & Conclusions • Things to consider... – Should your institution have a browser policy? – What browsers are your internal and external users using? – Is it worthwhile moving from Netscape to Internet Explorer? – If you install large numbers of browsers, would a browser administration kit save time and money? • Need to investigate further… – Browser security – Management of plug-ins – Growing use of WebTV type devices and PDA browsers – The use of User Agent negotiation
  31. 31. In the parallel session... • Browser administration kits – Hands on look at Netscape/Internet Explorer kits – What browser features should we modify? • Hands on look at Opera, Mozilla, PDAs, WebTV • Should we monitor browser usage? • Making kiosk mode browsers

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