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Microsoft Sends Broken Web Pages to GNOME Web While GNOME is Adding Microsoft Integration

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original


icrosoft still sends broken Web pages to GNOME Web, while GNOME is adding Office 365/OneDrive integration.

A couple years ago, when I tried to sign into Microsoft Outlook mail with GNOME Web, I noticed that it gets a fallback page meant for obsolete Web browsers. GNOME Web uses (currently) the default version of WebKit that Safari 15 does.

So there’s no good reason for Microsoft to send it broken Web pages meant for Internet Explorer and other obsolete Web browsers.

I noticed at the time that if I used user agent hacks on every site that said I was running Safari on Mac OS that it loaded the full site.

We never did figure out the right user agents to feed each Microsoft domain that loads along the way to reliably get the correct version of Outlook, and the Basic site works. It’s just very ugly.

Michael Catanzaro told me that using “Safari on Mac OS” in general for the user agent generally does more harm than good. Most sites start trying to send you Mac files.

But it’s very clearly Microsoft seeing the Epiphany and Linux user agent somewhere along the way that’s tipping them off that they can screw up the site in this browser.

It’s not the first time Microsoft has sent obsolete or malformed Web pages to a browser with a modern and fully capable rendering engine.

It’s a pattern of bad behavior that at Microsoft, they attack small browsers where few will complain and most will go download or open something else.

Mozilla Suite and Firefox had to deal with this all the time in the early 2000s, and Microsoft detected Opera’s user agent it sent a deliberately corrupt style sheet on MSN, which was a major Web portal back then.

(Microsoft has since fired the editors and has stupid software loading random clickbait. Then they shovel that into their Windows 11 “Weather” widget.)

The Opera situation made it into the news at the time when Opera released a special “Opera Bork Edition” that “translated” everything on MSN into the language of the Swedish Chef, from The Muppet Show.

Opera releases “Bork” Edition (2003)

A technical explanation of the Opera incident.

At the time, Microsoft had a version of the page that worked in Opera, but gave it a corrupt version instead. The only change you needed to perform was to tell Microsoft you were visiting MSN in Internet Explorer 6.

In fact, to prove that Microsoft was sniffing for “Opera” in the user agent and returning a broken page, they changed it to “Oprah” and requested the page, and got the page for IE6, which displayed fine.

Previously, in 2001, Microsoft blocked Opera from accessing anything on MSN at all, and recommended Internet Explorer. Opera filed an antitrust complaint with government regulators, and Microsoft removed the block.

Later, Microsoft came back and performed subtle sabotage to make the page look broken in Opera as revenge for getting Microsoft in trouble with regulators.

I complained to Microsoft in 2021 about the Outlook Mail issue with GNOME Web and got no response and they locked my post on Microsoft Answers.

Amazingly, with all of this going on, proving that Microsoft hasn’t changed at all and attacks GNOME’s official Web browser, GNOME developers are adding support for Onedrive (Microsoft’s “cloud” storage) into GNOME Files.

As I was reading through GNOME’s gitlab instance, I found some chatter that led me to a Microsoft page where they will be shutting down “Basic” authentication and forcing OAuth2 for Outlook Mail as of October 1st, which means your only choices are moving to some client that supports that, or using their Webmail interface.

Apparently, the plan is to support OAuth2 for Microsoft accounts throughout GNOME and to add Onedrive support into GNOME Files.

That probably means that Geary and Evolution will work, but I don’t want to use those. It also seems like a lot of effort to support Microsoft when they deliberately do to GNOME Web what they did to Opera in 2003 on their Outlook Mail site.

Oddly enough, opening Microsoft Office (yuck) seems to function as intended in GNOME Web, but even going to Outlook through that, you get the fallback site.

“Microsoft Loves Linux”

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