If you have read my post on Opera Mini Tricks, then you know what I mean by the heading. But if you haven’t done it yet, just open your favourite Opera Mini browser and type in address bar opera:config (or just config: ). You will see the Power-User settings menu where you can change the values of few of your browser’s default settings. Every option in the menu is self-explanatory except the option of site patches and user-agent masking. It will look something like the below image.
What is Site Patching and User-agent Masking
So what exactly is site patching and user-agent masking? Though I am speaking of only opera mini, but this option also applies to all other mobile and desktop browsers. This option may not be present directly in the menu items of the browsers but if you dig deeper you will finally find one. These two options are very helpful and also mostly required from user perspective but may even be a killer for the developers or webmasters. Let’s have a close look at these two options.
What is Site Patching
No website is ever perfect. They are made by humans and as you all know that humans make mistakes. Many websites on the World Wide Web actually have errors in their codes. These errors may be in the HTML, the CSS or the scripting languages used at the server side.
When you request for a site content through your browser, what the browser gets in return is the HTML code (along with many other codes) of your requested website. It runs this code and renders you the website in a graphical way containing easy to read text and images. Now what happens if the code the browser got from the website’s server contains errors? Here’s where the site patching comes into play.
Browsers instead of telling the users that the requested website page contains errors in the code, they actually try to rectify it. They correct the wrongly coded things and even add their own code if required. After this correction only, you are able to see that website though it has some coding errors. This action on part of browsers is referred as Site Patching. It is done for better user experience, otherwise you know how it would feel if you opened 10 sites and 8 of them didn’t show up anything.
What is User-agent Masking
User-agent is a string your browser sends to a website’s server which contains information about your operating system, browser name and version, language and other details. This user-agent helps the server identify your operating system, browser so that it sends the response code accordingly. Now user-agent masking is nothing but hiding this user-agent from the server.
Browsers use this technique to solve the compatibility issues across different browsers. For example, Opera desktop browser is often overlooked while the developers design their websites. So it is highly probable that a website may not render properly in Opera but works fine with Firefox or Chrome. Now what Opera browser does is that it sends the user-agent of Firefox or Chrome to the server. This way it hides or masks its own user-agent and the server thinks it to be Firefox or Chrome and sends the requested info accordingly. Opera gets that code and renders it to the user.
One thing to note here is that when the website cannot be rendered properly to Opera users, opera can apply site patching and change the code as required so that it works well with it. But if the problem can be solved by simple user-agent masking then it does not go for the time consuming site patching.
So coming back to opera mini, the option Site Patches and User-agent Masking is enabled by default. Keeping it enabled is good from user perspective as you may have known by now. Still have any doubts? Waiting for your comments.