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RidgeStar

Manual: Operations-User-Agent

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Background

A User-Agent (for the purposes of the RidgeStar world) is a simple character string that describes the capabilities and environment related to a Program that is operating in a computer somewhere that requests information from a RidgeStar server. The RidgeStar server interprets the request for information and responds, as appropriate, to properly presented requests.

Most Visitors to a RidgeStar site utilize a Program or App known as a BrowserBrowser (e.g. Chrome, FireFox, Opera, Edge, Safari, etc.) that operates within a SystemSystem (e.g. Windows, Mac OS, Fedora, etc.) on some Hardware Device (Desktop, Mobile, Robot, etc.).

A more generalized description of the User-Agent is available from Wikipedia->

User-Agent

The requesting Program will traditionally provide a character string identified as the User-Agent that is intended to describe the Program's operating environment and it's general capabilities. For a variety of reasons, the User-Agent string has some "reliability problems" (for a chuckle, have a look at WebAIM's History of the browser user-agent string->).

If a more specific example of the User-Agent string helps, here's what your Browser has reported:

CCBot/2.0 (https://commoncrawl.org/faq/)

However, even with all these issues, the User-Agent offers us (RidgeStar and the Webmaster for each Client Site), one of the few ways to identify and generally categorize the type of characteristics a VisitorVisitor to the site has. Keep in mind that the User-Agent is not reliable as a result of it's heritage, but...it is what it is and for most website access it offers a basic way to look at the types of visits that are occurring.

Device, System, and Browser

Each time a connection is made with a RidgeStar website (when a SessionSession is initialized), the RidgeStar code analyzes the User-Agent character string that was sent by the Program and attempts to extract identifying characteristics from the User-Agent, which is then recorded in the Activity table as follows:

Device (current User-Agent: Robot)
Identifies the general Type of Device that is associated with the User-Agent. Values you may find are: Desktop, Mobile, Robot, or Script. This grouping should not be taken literally, but provides a reasonable way to summarize the sorts of traffic a site is experiencing.
System (current User-Agent: CCBot 2.0)
Identifies the operational environment that is in executing in the Device (most often the "operating system" on the Device). Examples are Windows, iPhone, Android, Linux, Fedora, etc. Where available, we also record the numeric release levels of the specific System (Windows 10, Mac OSX 10.15, etc.). When Device=Robot, we make efforts to identify the specific robot (e.g. GoogleBot) and the associated Version of same, if available.
Browser
Identifies the operational Program designed to retrieve and display HTML (if a Browser is identifiable in the UserAgent). Examples are Chrome, Firefox, Opera, IE, Edge, etc. Where available, we also record the major numeric release levels of the specific Browser (Firefox 95, Edge 96, Safari 15, Chrome 96).

It is important to note that, as documented, the User-Agent may (or may NOT) report or inform the Server about the "truth" associated with the requestor. In fact, some Program's even permit the end user to pick and choose which User-Agent they would like to pretend to be. Thus, while the basic information being reported can be useful to identify general trends and usage levels, the smart webmaster will realize that the Device, System, and Browser are simply informational in nature.

RIdgeStar (as the technicians behind the sites) goes to great pains to avoid using the information from the User-Agent to prepare HTML for transmission to the requestor so that the resulting HTML will be acceptable to the widest range of Visitors possible.

Conclusion

While the information available in the Operations area of most RidgeStar sites (e.g. Administrator: Operations), can be beneficial generally, DO be careful about reading too much into the accuracy of the data. Trends can certainly be accepted about which sorts of Hardware and Software is probably being used, but....be very careful about assuming that the information you see is absolutely true.

Perhaps (hopefully???), the web will eventually figure out how to make all this work more reliably and with a higher degree of accuracy. But, until then, use what you see wisely and we'll be fine.