You are not allowed into our site because we don’t like your browser

So, this morning I wanted to check whether a certain item was available from Marks & Spencer, so I visited their web site. I’m watching the page load when Bam! I’m redirected to the following friendly message.

“To protect you from certain usability and/or security issues we currently do not support Opera, Mozilla, earlier versions of Netscape or IE. If your preferred browser is not supported, we recommend that you consider co-installing a supported version.”

Well, thank you so much, Marks & Spencer from protecting me from the evil that is an alternative browser. I’m very glad to see that you are “working to support speech browsers”, has no-one informed you that it’s possible to create a site that works in all browsers, including “speech browsers”, and that redirecting potential customers to an error page because you don’t recognise their browser is just a tad old hat?

I fired up Internet Explorer just long enough to send them a message asking exactly what these security issues were with Mozilla, but I didn’t bother to look for the item I wanted to order. I’ll get that at a retailer that supports my browser of choice.


I heard back from Marks & Spencer Customer Services …

“Dear Ms Andrew,

Thank you for contacting us.

I was concerned to hear that you can’t log on to I’m sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you.

I’m afraid that you can’t access our site at the moment because we do not support the browser you’re using. We do not support Opera, Mozilla, certain versions of Netscape or versions of Internet Explorer earlier than IE 5 because of usability and security issues.

However, we are aiming for all major browsers to be able to access our site in the near future. We are also currently working to provide a wider range of client side applications to make the browser experience more enjoyable, so we recommend co-installing a later version of the IE browser family.

I do hope that you will be able to log onto our website soon. Thank you again for getting in touch.”

… I’m really looking forward to those client side applications that will make the browser experience more enjoyable, I’m sure they are really worth switching browser for.


maggi January 1, 2001 Reply

for some reason your blog appears on my page in such a small font I can barely read it. You’re a techno-freak, aren’t you? Why does this happen? is it something I can fix? or is it meant to look that way?

Rachel January 1, 2001 Reply

The font is sized with ems and should be resizable in your browser. The base font size is quite small but I just checked it in IE with text set to medium (I normally use Firebird) and it didn’t look too tiny. You can change the size of the text in Internet Explorer by going View > Text Size.

That said, is my base font size too small for people? If you think it is, let me know (and which browser and size you are using).

Drew McLellan January 1, 2001 Reply

In Safari the text looks great. It just hits a sweet spot for the Mac’s anti aliasing and looks lovely and rounded. Small but perfectly formed.

Tim January 1, 2001 Reply

I mailed M and S about this a while ago…

I’ve posted the conversation on my site here:

Tim January 1, 2001 Reply

Oh, and can anyone spot the irony in suggesting that “To protect you from certain usability and/or security issues” you’d be better off using IE…

greg scheeler January 1, 2001 Reply

i would prefer that the base font be a little bigger – but i just adjust my ie to display a bigger font.. not a big deal…

Rachel January 1, 2001 Reply

Tim … I just love this quote in their email to you,

“… and are pleased
to announce that Netscape 6 and 7 have been unblocked and may be used to
access the site.”

May there be great rejoicing amongst the Netscape users!

Gina B January 1, 2001 Reply

Well, I had no idea what M&S sells, nor will I ever know NOW, I guess. Unbelievable. I’d love to see some stats on how quickly they are driving away customers.

Tim January 1, 2001 Reply


Unfortunately, they’re probably driving away customers v e r y s l o w l y, as most people use IE. It’s a shame, but it’s reality.

BTW: spoof your user agent, or disable javascript and you will be able to access the site, because they use dumb client side browser sniffing.

It doesn’t help in the fight against stupid companies like this who think it’s OK to block people based on their choice of browser, but it’ll help you view their stuff 😉


AttackMonkey January 1, 2001 Reply

It could just be a lazy/inept development company doing the site. I’ve worked on a few sites recently where they haven’t worked on non-ie browsers and it’s only been a small amount of work to make that happen, and the people who wrote it originally have trolled out the old ‘stability and security issues’ chesnut as the reason why and told us not to bother fixing it.

M&S probably don’t know any better and have accepted this as a matter of course………

It’s a bit sad really that in this day and age people still seem incable of putting in the extra bit of effort to make a cross browser standards compliant website.


Mike January 1, 2001 Reply

I used to work at M&S HQ as a contractor and I know that it was built by Wheel (they still list them as a client. Wheel have a pretty good reputation… but you always get a mixed bag with agencies don’t you. Rach can testify to the supreme skills of some ;]

Mike January 1, 2001 Reply

ok that stripped out HTML :]
Wheel client list here:

Drew McLellan January 1, 2001 Reply

Wheel even admit to being “actively involved in shaping their digital strategy”! If that was my work, I certainly wouldn’t admit to it! I also note that Wheel were responsible for the Dixons Stores Group sites – those of “Javacode” fame:

Based on these examples of shoddy work, it looks like Wheel need to buck up their ideas a bit.

bugs January 1, 2001 Reply

I use Firebird too, with the User Agent Switcher extension installed so with one click I can pretend to be using IE if I hit a website with a stupid test like this.

But when I went to the M&S website just now without spoofing the User Agent, it worked fine, as did running with user agent set to Opera. Looking at the source for the page I didn’t notice any test for user agent.

Perhaps this rant caused them to finally see the light?

Liz January 1, 2001 Reply

I use a browser on a very small OS which doesn’t support any CSS at all (and isn’t upgradable, as aren’t any of the other browsers for this OS.
However, the page you posted loaded just fine.
I didn’t look any further than that page, though.

Rachel January 1, 2001 Reply

Liz – they seem to have removed the browser detection 🙂


Marnanel January 1, 2001 Reply

This is being tracked as bug 164280 in Bugzilla, fwiw:

drazic19 January 1, 2001 Reply


As a side not to your ongoing problems with Mozilla etc, i’m a developer who is having great problems. It seems that any validation i create for my forms works perfectly in IE, but is totally ignored by Firefox. Further to this it somehow allows constraints in my database to be broken. Such as null entries into NOT NULL fields.

Very bizzare


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