Microsoft's upcoming Chromium-based web browser Microsoft Edge may change the user agent automatically based on the visited site.
The new Microsoft Edge web browser is based on Chromium, the same core that Google Chrome uses. It may identify as Chromium because of that and that should give it the same level of compatibility with websites and applications as Google Chrome.
Microsoft Edge may also identify as Microsoft Edge instead, however on select sites. One of the main motivations for doing so is Edge's improved support for media streaming sites like Netflix.
Whereas Chrome users may play Netflix streams in a quality of up to 1080p (with some trickery offered by an extension, the default is 720p), Microsoft Edge classic users may enjoy streams in a quality up to 4K.
That's a big difference and one of the core advantages of Microsoft Edge. The new Chromium-based Edge offers the same advantage, as it includes Microsoft's own DRM solution for commercial media streams and Google's Widevine solution.
Bleeping Computer reports that the new Chromium-based Edge browser downloads a JSON file regularly from config.edge.skype.com (what is with that URL, Microsoft?) which matches certain domains to certain user agents.
When an Edge user connects to any of the sites mentioned in the configuration file, e.g. netflix.com or hbonow.com, Microsoft Edge applies the user agent that the JSON file assigned to the site. In the case of streaming media sites, it is identifying itself as the classic Edge browser:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/64.0.3282.140 Safari/537.36 Edge/18.17763
For Facebook and Messenger, it identifies as Google Chrome specifically:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/75.0.3763.0 Safari/537.36
and for most sites, using the default user agent:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/75.0.3763.0 Safari/537.36 Edg/220.127.116.11
The JSON file has a section that overrides exposure of DRM plugins. Edge may restrict exposure to one of the supported DRM plugins on select sites. It does so for CBS, Shudder, TVnow, Bitmovin and Sling currently, and exposes only Google's Widevine to these sites.
Microsoft has not published any article or information on Edge's user agent changing capabilities. The most likely explanations are compatibility and functionality. Microsoft picks the classic Edge browser to unlock high quality streams on certain media streaming sites, Google Chrome when the user agent offers advantages, and the default user agent of the browser on the majority of sites out there.
User Agent switching is another advantage that Microsoft Edge has over Google Chrome.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.