Re-using crawler view to allow older devices access

I gather that supporting ever-older browsers is out of scope. I can use the wayback machine as a sort of proxy but this gives me an idea: can we re-use the existing crawler view and serve it up to older browsers?

For context, I have an older iPad which no longer renders anything for my forum, and a not-so-old iPhone which shows a blank page until the tab is swapped in from the tab manager. Neither device can be updated. As a workaround I can use the 404 page as a kind of index and then use /print view to see particular threads.

These are my user agents:

  • Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 10_3_3 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/603.3.8 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/10.0 Mobile/14G60 Safari/602.1
  • Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 9_3_5 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/601.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) CriOS/58.0.3029.113 Mobile/13G36 Safari/601.1.46

Perhaps related, the recent update to crawler detection which inspects user agents:
Smarter handling of random crawler traffic

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This has started to come up here and there in topics on Meta, thanks for creating a dedicated topic to track it.

I like the idea. Whether we show the crawler view itself, or some other “simplified” view that include no or minimal JS for older browsers is something I’d like to see supported.

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I think this could be a good solution for old browsers. For public sites which don’t require login, it would be pretty easy to re-use the crawler view to provide a backwards-compatible read-only view.

It gets more complicated once you consider login_required sites, or sites with secure categories. If we want those to be accessible to older browsers, then we will need to re-implement the login and password reset flows in a compatible way.

Still achievable, but will require some development

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Great news! I gather that public sites is the main case - certainly it’s my case.

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I suggested exactly this a couple of weeks ago here on Meta. Adding old safari/ie/edge to the crawler list, and a change to add the browser update banner on top of the crawler view is much better than a blank screen.

For first version making it only for anons is plenty.

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You’re a godsend. Smart thinking!

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