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Internet Explorer 5, or is it?

James Cridland James Cridland | 22:26 UK time, Wednesday, 24 September 2008

When was the last time you used Internet Explorer 5?

It would seem that, for most people, it's almost never. My own personal site (I'll not link to it here, it'll be embarrassing) has had precisely one visit using Internet Explorer 5 in the last three months - and they only looked at one page.

That's a good thing - it shows that people are upgrading their browsers to newer, safer ones. Whether you're a Firefox 3 person or an Internet Explorer 7 person, you're using the latest, safest versions of those browsers. Do it now if you haven't already. (Other browsers and operating systems are available, of course, to quote from the olden days when the Radio Times got promoted on the telly).

So, it was quite a surprise, when I chomped through some server logs for the BBC's podcasting service recently, to see a rather unexpected entrant in the list.

I used Analog to chomp through a random day of download logs, with the main objective of seeing how many downloads we get through the iPhone/iPod Touch interface that you'll see at www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts on one of those devices. It turns out that it's rather more popular than we thought - 7% of all podcast downloads are wirelessly to one of those two devices. Wow. For a piece of 10% time hackery, we've done well. (Well done, SimonC and ChrisJ).

The other obvious podcast catchers appeared in the list - Juice, iTunes, the PSP, Nokia phones, etc; but the second most popular piece of software to download our podcasts was... Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.

Tens of thousands of downloads every day. All apparently from a browser which nobody's using any more.

Of course, it's perfectly possible to 'spoof' a user-agent in this way - it's one line of PHP, for example. Older versions of Opera used to pretend they were Internet Explorer to get past bad coders who insisted on having sites that "must use Internet Explorer". And I'm sure that this is the case here.

So: a quick question, and a quick plea.

Does anyone know what popular piece of podcast software spoofs its user-agent as a vanilla copy of MSIE5? I'm sure the hive mind of the Radio Labs subscriber base has the answer.

And please, if you write software (whether it's a canny bit of PHP, Python, or Java), at least add something in the user-agent string that says what your software really is. Ta.

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