Google+ and Opera: the workaround

Jul
08
2011

Edit 21.7.2011: There is now a more elegant and more correct solution available thanks to XP1 from MyOpera.com as mentioned either in the comments of this post, at MyOpera.com or in my post at my Czech blog (Czech only for now, sorry about that – English version of the post coming ASAP) here.

It seems there’s some demand for the English version of my Czech post about Google+ Opera workaround, so I’ve decided to write this up in English as well. You can also follow this thread at My Opera forums.

It’s been quite hard not to notice the phenomenal success of the Google+ social network in just a few days since its unofficial launch. As usual when dealing with all things Google, Opera users were facing another thing that was hard not to notice – the Google+ top notification bar…is sort of missing the actual notifications in Opera. Which in turn makes it kind of hard to use Google+ in Opera efficiently, since you really have no idea about the number of new comments or any other events you should be notified about. You can of course use another (=worse) browser, you can just use the mail notifications or you can get your notifications on your Android device, if you happen to have one (but although the Android G+ app is really nice, to be using it as a notification device for your desktop browser is not really that convenient). Thankfully, it seems like there’s another option to work around this problem.

It seems that the problem, as always, lies primarily with browser sniffing (or is closely connected to it). Which really should not be a surprise for anyone anymore, given Google’s track record with Opera. It seems that Opera is receiving different code than it should be getting from the servers. The first indication of the fact that this might once again be the case was the fact that when I tried to use the “Mask as Firefox” and “Mask as Internet Explorer” options, by now the standard tools of any Opera user dealing with Google services (and please bear in mind that the only function these options provide is hiding the fact that you’re using Opera from the webserver you’re visiting and pretending you are using either Firefox or IE – they don’t change a single thing in Opera itself), the notifications and Share field in the top bar appeared once again. There was a catch, though – first, you couldn’t open the actual notifications (instead of the popup notification bubble there was a warning telling you that your browser configuration is unknown and that you should install “a modern browser”), and on Google+ itself, there was a problem with the input fields where you enter your status updates, comments and such. When masking as Firefox, you couldn’t even enter them to write anything. When masking as IE, you could enter them just fine, but then you were stuck when trying to send the text, since the send button could not be clicked.

Thiking about what might be causing that, I came to a simple idea – it seemed most likely that when G+ detects Firefox or IE, it sends them the code that is specificaly finetuned for these browsers, so it stands to reason that this code does not work all that well with Opera. How about testing a third alternative – make G+ believe that I am using Chrome? Changing the Opera User agent string to the one resembling the one Chrome uses – which, incidentally, means just to stuff it with ID strings of all the major browsers available, Google really isn’t even trying to be subtle – was pretty easy. And lo and behold, it worked – at least at the first glance everything was working as it should, including notifications. Then I simply had to find out the exact string that made the difference. And after a few more tests, it was obvious – the solution was to include Safari’s user agent string (kinda surprising it wasn’t Chrome’s own UA string solving this issue – why is that I have no idea).

So, if anyone’s willing to test the workaround himself, here’s what to do:

Enter opera:config as the address of the web page you wish to visit and go there. You’ll be welcomed by the Preferences Editor. Enter “id” into the “Quick find” field on the top. The Editor will filter out a few options in miscellaneous config categories for you. We’re interested in “Id” option under ISP category, which we need to change. Alternatively, you can get there by just clicking this link:

opera:config#ISP|Id

(Or you just enter this string into the address field.)

The “Id” option is blank by default. We now need to enter either “AppleWebKit/535.1” (omit the quotation marks, even though I don’t think it would really matter if you didn’t) or alternatively “Safari/535.1” (it’s up to you which one of those you choose, each of them will “break” some pages and not affect others, but more on that later). Now you just click on Save right beside the input field itself. The change is now saved. You just need to restart Opera now and you should be able to enjoy the fully functional Google+. You don’t need to be using any additional “Mask as” or “Identify as” option (in fact it would be best to make sure you do have “Identify as Opera” set, otherwise it’s quite likely this won’t work for you as it should).

Important notes:

1. By following this guide, you’re changing the Opera identification string for all webpages. This means that by doing so, you’re quite likely to sometimes encounter problems on pages that worked just fine before. One example is YouTube – if you choose to use the “Safari/535.1” ID string, YouTube will warn you that you’re not using a modern browser (although it will still work just fine). You can get rid of this warning by setting Opera to “Identify as Firefox” on YouTube. If you use the “AppleWebKit/535.1” string (which is the one I personally use, since with it I tend to get identified as a Safari user less frequently by webservers), YouTube works fine but some different webpage may need setting ie. “Identify as Firefox” to work properly – that’s the nature of this workaround. Whatever you do, make sure to take notes of the pages and spoofing settings you used to be able to revert these changes once there is a better solution for G+ available. I’m pretty certain the same workaround could be achieved by using a user script of some kind, set to specifically work on Google+, but I wasn’t able to produce one (I suck at scripting). Hopefully there will soon be a browser.js patch included with Opera by default. I’m pretty much content with this workaround right now, though. I’ll edit this post once there is a better solution available.

2. I don’t guarantee that when using this workaround, you’ll get 100% functionality from Google+. I’ve been using if for about a week at the time of the writing and did not encounter any problems, but that doesn’t really mean anything. You’re using this workaround at your own risk. If/when by using it your browser becomes self-aware and starts World War III or decides to eat your granny, you’re on your own 😉

3. The guide refers to the latest Opera 11.5 final, released a few days earlier. It’s now also been tested with the first Wahoo (Opera 12) weekly build. I’m not sure how and if it does work on older versions, but I’m not planning to find that out, sorry. If you do, you can of course leave a comment about how it went.

4. If you should encounter any problems by using this workaround and want to revert it, it’s of course quite simple – just erase the “AppleWebKit/535.1” or “Safari/535.1” strings from the “Id” field (=leave it blank) or click on the Default button next to it, save your changes and restart Opera. Everything should be now just the way it was before.

11 people like this post.
Napsal(a) dne 8. 7. 2011 v 00:22
Kategorie: Browsers,Guide,Software

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