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Problems with Firefox User Agent Override and Google Images

Discussion in 'Android Apps & Games' started by rshudson82, Jun 10, 2016.

  1. rshudson82

    rshudson82 Newbie
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    I use Firefox for Android; always have, on every device since the Moto DROID RAZR. I now use a Moto DROID Turbo 2, but that's irrelevant to my problem.

    Ever since switching from Chrome to Firefox, I noticed that typing a search into the search box on the Google home page is excruciatingly slow. The search suggestions take forever to come up, so much so that I have my entire query input before the second letter even appears.

    In searching for a fix for this, someone on Reddit claimed this behavior is designed by Google and that overriding the user agent would solve it - which it did. I went to the about:config settings and created a key titled general.useragent.override.google.com which contained the value "Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0; XT1585 Build/MCK24.78-13.12) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/50.0.2661.89 Mobile Safari/537.36" which is the useragent string I got while using Chrome on the same phone and surfing to whatsmyuseragent.com.

    So now any google.com site should see my browser as Chrome instead of Firefox and this did indeed fix my search entry problem. But now, if I search Google Images, no thumbnails will appear. I can tap the blank space, and the image will load, but as soon as I back out it disappears again.

    I have tried disabling/uninstalling all add-ons, uninstalling and reinstalling Firefox, and Google Images works fine until I create this "general.useragent.override.google.com" string in the about:config page. Is there anyone who might have a solution? Or is there another solution for the slow search entry on Google in Firefox Android? I can't go back to Chrome; Google's refusal to allow the mobile version to use extensions is a deal-breaker. I've got to have my ad-free browsing.
     

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  2. rshudson82

    rshudson82 Newbie
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    Ok, I have found kind of a solution - I removed the custom useragent string and installed the Phony add-on for Firefox, and used that to change my User Agent to the generic "Android (Phone)" entry. This fixes the Google Images problem as well as the search entry problem. Slight annoyance to change it if I need to appear as Firefox for whatever reason, such as installing new add-ons, but I guess this is the best I get. Hope this helps someone.
     
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  3. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    Google is always messing with Firefox and it irritates the hell out of me, as I will only use Firefox
     
  4. svim

    svim Android Expert
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    Google doesn't mess with Firefox at all, Firefox is developed and maintained by Mozilla. What Google does is tweak and tailor its services to suit Chrome, and those frequent changes may or may not create compatibility issues with other browsers. The Google Gods set their own path, it's a matter of whether we lowly minions want to follow along.
     
  5. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Android Expert
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  6. electricpete

    electricpete Android Expert
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    I can believe that Google is messing with firefox...

    I have noticed that browsing news on news.google.com is very very slow on firefox. (Firefox is slow in general but a whole 'nother level on Google news)
     
    #6 electricpete, Jun 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  7. electricpete

    electricpete Android Expert
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    Just added Phoney add-in to Firefox and selected user agent "android phone". Now news.google.com scrolls normally. It's a night and day difference. Yay. Thanks, op!
     
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  8. svim

    svim Android Expert
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    Very doubtful that's the case. Google can't 'mess' with ANY of the other browsers. That's like saying Toyota messes with Honda or Apple messes with Lenovo. Google doesn't even care what the other browsers can or can't handle efficiently. What Google is doing however, and this is publicly documented, is making its services run optimally in its Chrome browser. Things like Google's latest AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are just one of many aspects to this. Full compatibility with Chrome is the priority, if other browsers are or are not is secondary, or even less. When Google does tweak something in say, Google Drive or Google Music services, they will absolutely make sure that change in code corresponds to how well it works in its Chrome browser. If that change happens to make Firefox, or Opera, or Edge, or whichever browser to have performance problems when accessing those newly altered services than it's up to Mozilla, or Opera (or whoever is in charge of Opera now that's owned by some Chinese consortium), or Microsoft to either change the code their respective browsers to follow along or not.
     
  9. electricpete

    electricpete Android Expert
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    No-one suggested that google changes code of Firefox. What is contemplated is that google alters the manner that content is supplied through their google servers in a manner that disrupts certain browsers. And they "can" do that ("can", in the sense that they are technically capable, not considering any legal or ethical aspects). For my part, I'm trying to keep an open mind that "mess with" could be intentional or unintentional although it's more interesting to focus on the intentional...
    If by "care" you are referring to business interest, then I would respectfully disagree. Google gets a high fraction of their revenue from ads and has strong business interest in keeping people running on browsers without ad-blocking add-ins. Firefox has ad-blocking add-ins. Google has a potential business interest in slowing content served from their servers to Firefox in the sense that it may make Firefox less attractive to users and may push those users toward other browsers.

    I don't want to go too far down the conspiracy theory trail. Having a potential motive doesn't prove anything (the only reason I bring it up is in response to "Google doesn't even care..."). For the most part I am a big fan of google services (and the fact that we get them free) and I have no problem with targeted ads or cards based on google collecting data from gmail and other sources.

    If you wish to test your assertion on the subject then I suggest you try mozilla firefox mobile brower on news.google.com for five minutes with and without the mentioned add-on Phoney (and after activating Phoney go to firefox overflow menu, select phoney, and select "android phone"). The difference is not small or subtle.... it is huge and undeniable! And the only difference is apparently... whether or not google knows I'm using a Firefox browser! (that's all the add-in claims to change.) My primary interest in the subject is simply being able to use firefox (with add-ins for dark-background and more) while browsing my favorite sites including news.google.com. I'm not eager to jump to any conclusions about google's behavior... but it is a strange result.
     
    #9 electricpete, Jun 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  10. electricpete

    electricpete Android Expert
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    This video shows my results for the above experiment.

    What is shown on video for my phone:
    • Scrolling in Firefox slows to almost a standstill on news.google.com in the "default" configuration
    • scrolling is perfectly normal / snappy if we use the Phoney firefox add-on to change the user agent to "android phone"
    • It is repeatable. (I did it many more times, I assume others would get similar results).

    The only thing the add-on does is change what the phone tells the website about the user's platform/browser (description says it's for use on websites that don't recognize firefox as a mobile browser).

    Although Firefox is generally slow for me compared to chrome or Lightning, it doesn't bog down like that (the way its shown on the video) on any pages other than google news. It consistently bogs down in google news (until I use Phoney),
     
    #10 electricpete, Jun 13, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
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  11. svim

    svim Android Expert
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    It's not that I doubt your claim Firefox is performing differently in your before and after tests, anyone can see differences in how various Google-based services perform using different browsers. Firefox is the primary browser on my desktop, laptops, and phone but I also on occasion use Chrome, Opera, Konqueror, IE, and Safari on different platforms and the differences in performance using Google services vary quite a bit.
    I guess it's more about semantics, claiming Google is 'messing' with other browsers is one way to phrase it, I just don't think that's a proper representation of the situation. Google has never hidden the fact that its services are best viewed through its Chrome browser. That's not a conspiracy theory, it's publicly documented. Whether Firefox or any other browser can interact as seamlessly with Google services as Chrome is irrelevant to Google, the priority is Chrome. Google has also never hidden that fact that Chrome came about because it wanted more control over how a browser should function, both in the back end and in the user interface. Again, no conspiracy involved, it was a business move. If Mozilla, or Opera (or whoever controls Opera now that it's owned by a Chinese consortium), or Microsoft, or Apple, or any other third-party developer want to change the code in their respective browsers to also be fully compliant in interacting with Google's changes it's also their choice, a business decision. But when a site like news.google.com works better with one browser as opposed to another, it's not that Google is messing with those other browsers, it's simply a matter of whether those other browsers are as compliant as Chrome.
     
  12. electricpete

    electricpete Android Expert
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    It would be more straightforward to apply your logic if it were different performance on different browsers.
    It's a different twist when Firefox works fine on the site only after disguising itself with a different user agent.
    I'm not disagreeing, but I'm also not convinced.
    I'm squarely in the camp of uncertain, and happy to stay that way.
     
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  13. zuben el genub

    zuben el genub Android Expert
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    Moz can be strange with extensions. They have to be signed and some need to be changed at every new beta. I read some Moz fora and there are some complaints about extensions and updates not working right. I'm assuming the mobile versions act the same way.

    Try setting your phone as a desktop and see what it does. The Moto X will behave like the laptop. If Google and FX get along right as a desktop on the mobile, then it's probably something in mobile only and possibly on your phone only.

    Try this site:
    http://forums.mozillazine.org/
     

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