Fool websites into thinking you’re using a different web browser or device. Whether you want to trick that ancient IE-only website into letting you in or explore what the web looks like for iPhone users, User Agent Switcher for Chrome is a great way to fool sites you visit by changing your user agent.
The Internet used to be just that – the Internet. There was more or less one version, and everyone saw it. That’s no longer true. The websites you visit today know things about you, and serve content to you differently depending on what they know. Use Google in Germany and it will be in German, for example. It’s also a little different depending on what browser or device you’re using. Mobile versions of sites are very different, for example, and some ancient sites are still blocked for people not using Internet Explorer.
How do websites know what device and browser you’re using? Simple – your user agent. This is basically a single line of information that lets people know what kind of computer and browser you’re using. You can see your user agent right now at this site, if you’re curious.
You can also alter your user agent to trick sites into thinking you’re using a different browser or operating system. We showed you how to change your user agent on Firefox, but naturally Google Chrome users will want to get in on the action as well. User Agent Switcher for Chrome makes doing so easy.
Secret Agent Style
Let’s go undercover, then. Once you’ve installed the plugin you’ll see a standard issue Chrome extension button. Click it and you’ll get a list of choices:
Click what you want and that’s it – you’re done. You can now browse the Internet knowing every site you see thinks you’re using a different device or browser.
This can be very handy at times. If a site believes, for some stupid reason, that it isn’t compatible with Chrome, you can easily use this to pretend to use some other browser. In most cases everything will work perfectly, regardless of the restriction.
Browsing the web with a different user agent can also be fascinating, however. For example: pick any “Internet Explorer” for your user agent and visit the Google homepage. You’ll see this message:
That wasn’t there before! It seems that Google puts ads for Chrome on the Google homepage, targeting Internet Explorer users.
Other pages are different for practical reasons. Did you know that Gmail is completely different on the iPad than it is on the desktop? You can check out this alternate interface by setting your user agent to “iPad” and opening Gmail:
I prefer the standard Gmail, myself, but give this a shot. You might like it.
It’s also fun to browse the mobile version of your favorite news sites and blogs. You just might find them cleaner and easier to explore, particularly if your computer isn’t the most powerful one on the block.
My advice – play around. It’s geeky, sure, but it’s also fascinating.
Install User Agent Switcher
This is a Chrome extension, so it’s extremely simple to install. Just click here to find User Agent Switcher in the Chrome Web Store. You’ll be done in a couple of clicks.
Occasionally this plugin might be useful: for accessing sites that block Chrome, for example. Beyond that, though, it’s simply fun exploring how different the Internet behaves depending on what it thinks you’re using.
Have you guys noticed anything particularly cool or interesting? Please share it in the comments below, because I’d love to hear about it.