Jim Henson Productions
Answer: The Swedish Chef
In 2003, Opera released a very curious edition of their web browser, the “Bork” Edition. The special edition was available concurrently with the regular Opera release, but had one interesting difference: if users visited MSN.com using the Bork edition, they’d find that the entire text of the website was revised to appear as if written in the incomprehensible dialect used by The Swedish Chef of the Muppets fame. Where a user might expect to find something like “Welcome to MSN.com,” they would instead find something like “Gershun flem der herf!” or other variants of the Chef’s nonsensical mock-Swedish speech.
Why release such a version and specifically target MSN.com? In 2001, Microsoft blocked alternative browsers like Opera from accessing MSN.com on the grounds that only Internet Explorer could provide a proper browsing experience. The event caused an uproar over open access on the web, standards, and even after Microsoft relaxed the ban, the fact that they redirected other browsers to a splash page indicating they were using an incompatible browser left a bad taste in many users mouths.
To poke fun at the issue and raise awareness of the need for openness on the web and standards that would put an end to cross-browser compatibility problems, Opera released their Bork edition and issued the following statement in a press release:
“This is a joke. However, we are trying to make an important point. The MSN site is sending Opera users what appear to be intentionally distorted pages. The Bork edition illustrates how browsers could also distort content, as the Bork edition does. The real point here is that the success of the Web depends on software and Web site developers behaving well and rising above corporate rivalry.”
Fortunately, looking at the antics of both Microsoft and Opera from the future reveals a radically more standardized web experience where users rarely come across websites that outright don’t work in their browser or which instruct them that the page they are viewing is best optimized for Browser X, version Y.