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From Donald Ball <>
Subject [kinda OT] browser capabilities database
Date Thu, 19 Oct 2000 03:38:23 GMT
hi guys. we're getting ready to launch our new corporate site, served by
cocoon naturally, with both HTML and a DHTML skins. i've been tasked with
the tricky problem of choosing the optimal skin for each user. my initial
thought was to do client-side javascript detection, by testing to see if
either document.layers or document.all exist and setting a cookie - not a
perfect test, but a pretty good one. unfortunately, that approach only
works if users enter the site via the splash page with the javascript, and
if they allow me to set cookies.

my next thought was to check the browser's user agent string against a
capabilities database. unfortunately, i'm not aware of any such database
that's open and maintained. php has support for a browscap.ini file, but
they don't maintain it apparantly. you can download one sort of for free
from a company, cyscape, but it's many months old, incomplete, and had
some weird license restrictions. cyscape _does_, however have a javabean
component called browserhawk which can tell you all sorts of information
about a browser's capabilities, given an HttpServletRequest. pretty nifty,
works well with all of the browsers i've tried, but it's not open, and
it's not exactly cheap. (interestingly enough, it comes with an obfuscated
version of ibm's xml4j parser - hope they licensed it legitimately!)

i'm kind of torn. on the one hand, it's a great little component and it's
got a comprehensive database (much better than their free browscap.ini
file). on the other hand, it boggles my mind that there is no open browser
capabilities database out there. am i missing one, is there in fact
something good out there? if not, two questions:

1. would anyone be interested in helping start such a database and a set
of libraries to access it?

2. will it be fairly straightforward to use a browser capabilities library
(browserhawk or something else) to do flow control in the c2 sitemap?
(e.g. apply this stylesheet if the browser supports DHTML, otherwise apply
this one)

thanks. i'm looking forward to apachecon so i can get a sitemap/c2 brain
dump from those of you who've been working so hard on it.

- donald

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