Header Ads

Browser Alternatives

We’ve taken a look at the other browsers out there and have found out some interesting browsers that will catch your fancy

The internet has developed to the point where many web sites are thought of more as applications, with browsers designed such that you launch applications from your desktop that are actually services running in a window.

One persistent problem with browsers has been that many have been plagued by bugs and security vulnerabilities. It seems that the more popular a browser gets, the more holes are discovered, often causing users to move from one browser to another. On the other hand, browser developers compete with each other by adding more and more features into their browser, turning some of them almost into bloat ware, stuffed with features simply not needed by most users.

But if you have had enough of the bloat ware and security vulnerabilities in your browser, you might not be aware of the scope available to you for change – there are more browsers out there than you think. Each of these browsers uses the rendering backend, or engine, that is used by the popular browsers Firefox and Safari. They are therefore perfect for browsing, but each has been developed for different kinds of users, some of whom may want a large number of features, others, something as light as possible. Here, we introduce you to some of the alternatives, both for desktops and mobiles.


If you need a lightweight Firefox-like browser

Latest version: 1.5.3
Renderer: Gecko
Download size: Approx 5 MB

The open source browser K-Meleon has had a small, but loyal following since it was launched back in 2000. At that time, it lacked many important features, but nine years down the line and it has caught up with the competition. Today, it’s a robust and usable all-purpose browser, suitable for most users. It is also light on resources and consumes only around 12 MB of RAM while running with one tab open.

One of the better-known browsers, Opera, is liked by many simply because fact you get the complete package all in one go. Firefox, on the other hand, does require some degree of customization in terms of plug-ins and add-ons to get it up to speed. The K-Meleon browser is more like Opera, in that it comes most goodies built-in. It is feature-packed, but also has support for add-ons.

A built-in ad blocker, mouse gestures and a news feed reader are just some of the features that come with K-Meleon, so clearly you won’t be missing out on anything major. One feature that speeds up the load time of K-Meleon is a loader application that sits in your system tray. Double-clicking it opens the browser within a second on almost any system. The only minor downside is that this uses a small amount of memory.

Moving to K-Meleon is trouble free. It might be a little confusing at first but you can easily import bookmarks from Opera, Internet Explorer and Firefox. K-Meleon offers high levels of customizations but much of this has to be done by editing text files rather than through menus and dialogue boxes. Those who like to dabble with customization will no doubt enjoy this part of K-Meleon.


The complete package for social networking

Latest version: 2.5.2
Renderer: Gecko
Download size: Approx 12.7 MB

Flock basically a complete entertainment package aimed at those who are addicted to social networking. Resource usage is a bit on the higher side – with services such as the media bar and a tab open, it uses about 70 MB of RAM.

Overall, Flock has a rather retro look to it and once installed, you are immediately greeted with options to log into the social networking sites, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. It also has an integrated media bar that allows users to search through Youtube, Flickr or Truveo without interfering with the rest of the browser.

Other sidebars also help you sort between your feeds, social networking accounts, and other services such as maintaining blogs and media sharing.

Once you are logged into a social networking site, your information is saved and any updates can be viewed on the people sidebar, even when you are not actually on that particular page or tab. The Web Clipboard is another useful feature of Flock, which allows you to highlight and drag random text to the sidebar which is then stored there for later use. Image uploading is equally easy with Flock.

Flock can be customized similarly to Firefox, using extensions; you can check them out at https://extensions.flock.com/extensions/. You can also add more toolbars for entertainment purposes. However, it does not have separate themes.

As Flock is powered by the same technology that is used by the Mozilla Firefox 3 browser, it can use most of the extensions that are available for Firefox.


Tiny and Speedy

Latest version: 0.1.8
Renderer: WebKit
Download size: Approx 7.2 MB

Midori is an open source browser that works on the WebKit renderer. WebKit is the same engine that is used by Mac OS X’s Safari, and is also being used to develop mobile phone browsers.

The Midori browser is also a part of the Xfce desktop environment.

Midori does not come as an installation file, but instead in a .7z file containing the directly executable file. It is not impressive to look at, but is intended to be fast and light. Similarly to K-Meleon, Midori uses only about 12 MB of RAM with one tab open.

The progress bar of Midori is directly displayed on the address bar with a rather old-fashioned look. To get the best out of this browser you will need to customize it, but this might not suit everybody. It allows you to add styles, Netscape plugins and extensions, but you will have to do these manually, unlike other popular browsers.

Midori is a work in progress, but the developers are pretty enthusiastic about this open source browser and update it regularly.


The browser of the future?

Latest version: 0.8.0
Renderer: WebKit
Download size: Approx 9.7 MB

The Arora web browser is another open source project that was started by Adaptive Path in collaboration with the guys at Mozilla Labs. Together, they have come up with a concept browser that is meant to be the browser of the future. Arora is certainly unique in its own way. It is intended to be an all-in-one solution that is to be used as an integrated desktop sharing environment.

Currently, it is still in the works, but this browser tries to accomplish a lot, with users can sharing their desktops online for a more interactive experience, with different modes of communications (IMs, Emails, voice chat, etc.) and various mouse gestures.

At this point in time Arora still needs a considerable amount of work, but it does have the basic necessities of a browser. The current build includes the following features: session manager, privacy mode, good search engine management, a ClickToFlash plugin, a download manager and it also comes in 30 different languages.

xB Browser

For when you want to be anonymous

Latest version:
Renderer: Gecko
Download size: Approx 10.2 MB

xB stands for XeroBank, which was formerly known as Torpark, and is an open source anonymous browser. The xB Browser is secure in the sense that it erases everything, and doesn’t store unwanted elements such as cache or browser history, and hence makes the entire browsing session anonymous. Other features of xB include no saved passwords or forms, download history automatically wiped after the download, and cookies are accepted from sites, but are immediately erased once xB is closed.

xB is not a new browser that has been built from scratch, and once installed, you’ll see similarities to Firefox. The reason is that this browser has been built on Firefox and is secure and anonymous by means of changing the standard Firefox configurations.

Once you fire up xB, your anonymous status is displayed on the screen, you also see how your browser’s data packets are being routed through the Tor network. A small drawback here is that a site such as Google will open in accordance to the region your IP is in.

Additional useful features of this browser are that it utilizes approximately only 5 MB of RAM even with a second tab open and you also have the option to disable images. Thanks to xB, you can bypass firewalls and other security features and at the same time remain secure yourself when it comes to browsing through cyberspace.


GNOME gets some game

Latest version: 2.22.3
Renderer: Gecko

Epiphany is an open source browser intended mainly for Linux, but also with versions for BSD and Mac OS X.

Epiphany is a descendant of Galeon, another web browser which is quite old now (last updated in 2006), and has been created by the same person who started Galeon – Marco Pesenti Gritti.

The general layout and user interface of Epiphany is different, but overall this browser is similar to Firefox, with the same customization options through extensions and plug-ins. Instead of themes, Epiphany allows users to customize their user interface. Bookmarks are arranged according to topics rather than folders - you can assign multiple topics to any bookmark, rather than saving it in a particular folder. S, with Epiphany, gone are the days where you forget which folder which bookmark was saved in. Privacy and security features are also present and easily configurable.

When we started Epiphany, we felt that it has a strong resemblance to Firefox as well as Internet Explorer, but at the same time the fonts used are smooth and give a soft and comfortable overall appeal.

Epiphany is definitely something GNOME users should give a try if they haven’t already, as this browser can give Firefox a good run for its money.

Mobile browsers


The real mobile browser alternative

Latest version: 1.0
Renderer: Gecko
Download size: Approx 2.1 MB

Skyfire is a mobile web browser that really comes with all important features and has good cross-platform support: Windows Mobile 5, 6, 6.1, Symbian OS S60 v9.x and even HTC Touch Diamond.

With this browser you can freely browse and watch videos on sites such as YouTube, Hulu, etc., as it comes with full support for Adobe Flash , Silverlight 2.0 and QuickTime. No need to install additional plug-ins.

We tested the Skyfire browser on a mobile phone running Windows Mobile 6.0. It was easy to install and you also get the option to install a search bar on the home screen. When browsing, Skyfire gives a full browser experience and the entire page is visible in a shrunken version. You can tap on the screen to zoom in to sections of a page.

Cookies and bookmarks can also be stored with Skyfire. Currently, this is one of the best alternative mobile browsers out there and we recommend that you give it a try.


A revamped mobile browser from Mozilla

Latest version: 1.0
Renderer: Gecko
Download size: Approx 8.7 MB

Fennec is currently in the test stages, but we felt this deserves a mention as the developers seem to have done quite a good job so far. Fennec is being developed by the team over at Mozilla and is based on Firefox.

Though it is intended for hand-held and mobile devices, it can currently be used on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X. When we tried it out, the changes to the interface came as a pleasant surprise. Firefox has been given a complete revamp for Fennec and we feel it looks very good. It looks really simple, but at the same time will give the mobile device a very PC-like feel. Fennec just has a simple address bar and refresh button next to it with instructions and arrow keys. These are meant to be used either by touch controls (for devices that support them) or by using the arrow keys on the device. The browser slides out to reveal settings and other features on one side and the other shows tabs, giving navigation a totally new approach.

Once Fennec is ready, we’re sure it will be one of the best mobile browsers out there.