Firefox and Chrome plan to lie about their age to not break the internet
Firefox, Chrome, and Edge are all reaching version 100 soon, and turns out the internet isn’t fully equipped to handle web browser version numbers hitting three digits. Sites like Yahoo, HBO Go, and Bethesda.net are already struggling to fathom such a large number in early tests, so developers are having to step in.
Websites need to identify your browser via a “user-agent” string, which includes the name of the browser, the major version number, and the minor version number. Until now, the major version number has only ever maxed out with two digits and adding another one seems to be a problem big enough that Mozilla and Chrome developers have been testing the effects before the new updates hit in the next few months.
This has happened before. When browsers hit two digit version numbers a little over 12 years ago, some websites couldn’t handle it either. It was a mini Y2K for browsers and apparently some sites didn’t plan for this to happen again.
Firefox and Chrome have plans to avoid any catastrophic issues though. Firefox, as detailed in a blog post, will just lie to browsers about its version number or lock the browser to version 99 for everyone as they test other methods. Chrome plans to freeze the major version number at 99 and then sneak in the actual version number in the minor part of the user-agent tag.
Microsoft, however, hasn’t said how it plans to face any issues with Edge’s version 100 outside of asking people to test it on its update page.
While the issues don’t appear to be widespread, it’s still concerning that our access to websites can fall apart if someone counts to 100. You’d think after big scares in the past (which turned out to be nothing to worry about, by the way) we’d be better prepared for big numbers in tech.