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Detecting Browser Capabilities With BrowserHawk

One of the constant non-niceties when developing web sites is that of browser incompatibility. In this article Annette looks at Cyscape's BrowserHawk component, which can be used to find out the capabilities of any visitors web browser. Annette talks about the component in general, and also shows us a complete working example that detects flash, MSXML, connection speeds, and more.

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By: Annette Tennison
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 17
February 19, 2002
  1. · Detecting Browser Capabilities With BrowserHawk
  2. · What is BrowserHawk
  3. · The BrowserHawk application
  4. · Using BrowserHawk
  5. · BrowserHawk example
  6. · Conclusion

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Detecting Browser Capabilities With BrowserHawk - What is BrowserHawk
(Page 2 of 6 )

BrowserHawk is a Windows service and component/Java Bean (both versions are available for download) that can be instantiated through as ASP page. It is one of the most popular ways to accurately determine the capabilities of any visitor's web browser.

Here's a list of BrowserHawk's features, as listed at Cyscape:

  • Detection of Flash, Shockwave, Acrobat, and over a dozen other plug-ins.
  • Detection of WAP and PDA devices.
  • Detection of security settings, such as disabled cookies, JavaScript, ActiveX controls and more.
  • Automatic database logging of all stats, with no programming required.
  • Detection of screen size and color depth.
  • Detection of connection type and connection speed throughput, measured in bits per second.
  • Detection of installed Java virtual machine version and vendor, as well as the Microsoft JVM build number.
  • Detection of users on major ISP networks, such as AOL and MSN.
  • Detection of visitors operating system, platform, and user environment.
  • Detection of the users host name based on their IP address using reverse DNS lookups.
As you can see, BrowserHawk is one serious component. Using BrowserHawk and a bit of ASP programming, it's possible to create a web site that caters for the needs of everyone: from bandwidth eating cable users, right down to the people who are still running 56K dial-up modems. Here are some reasons why you might want to use BrowserHawk on your site:
  • To log the details of each visitors browser stats to an Access or Microsoft SQL Server database. You can then use these stats to create an overall view of your visitors as a whole.
  • You can target content and advertising to visitors based on exact circumstances. For example, you might only want to display a specific advertisement to visitors from the USA who are running Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, have Flash and JavaScript enabled, and have a screen resolution of 1024x768.
  • If you're developing a site with all of the latest bells and whistles, you can use BrowserHawk to make sure that your visitor's browsers conform to a set of minimum system requirements as defined by you. If not, you can kindly inform your user to upgrade their browser, enable certain features, or even redirect them to a less "resource intensive" version of your site.
  • You can use the BrowserHawk component to generate search-engine friendly pages. As you may know, several search engines use bots to spider your site for changes on a regular basis. BrowserHawk can detect these spiders and you can present pages designed specifically for certain types of search engines, thus increasing the chance of your site getting ranked higher.
One last thing to note about BrowerHawk is that it's used by some of the "big guys" in the I.T. industry including Microsoft, AOL, Symantec, HP and Compaq. Let's now take a look at the BrowserHawk configuration application.
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