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In search of the perfect browser

floyd - Mon 03 December 2018 - openbsd, browser, vimb, iridium

Please take this with a grain of salt, this is not a real technical article. Consider it a 'rant about browsers'

Modern day browsers are, in general, ~~steaming piles\^W\^W~~ almost full operating systems. You can even emulate x86 hardware in the browser (e.g: jemul8). This is not completely the web browsers' 'fault', it's more like the WWW lost it's initial meaning (see the Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One introduction).

Disregard the 'steaming pile' above, at least the mainstream browsers out there are some rather advanced pieces of technology. But as they say, with great complexity comes great responsibility. There are so many aspects that are quite tricky (if we're talking about security). I'm not even talking about various tracking mechanisms built into some browsers (this is more about privacy than security though).

Also, to prevent complexity from getting in the way, one needs a lot of processing power for a pleasant interaction with the browser.

Going back to the title: I still didn't find a perfect browser (by 'perfect', I mean something that would suit my needs, and not frustrate me at the same time).

Some of the requirements:

  • secure
  • fast
  • reasonable resource usage (doesn't need a octa-core system with 32G of ram, just to open a web page)
  • configurable

Try running Firefox/Chromium on an old Atom-based single-core netbook. It will work, but makes you want to smash that poor thing against the wall, if all you need is a quick web search for a 'chili con carne' recipe.

I've been using Iridium for quite a while, but still not completely satisfied with it.

Of course, there are always things like w3m which is close to obsolete, last release was somewhere around 2011 (I still use it as a html previewer with mutt), or lynx (using it for visiting gopher 'sites'), or links2 which even has graphics support.

Recently I've rediscovered vimb, thanks to this thread on reddit. For sure it is fast, and doesn't use too many resources (with JS off). Can't make a statement about how secure it is though. As secure as WebKit gets, I assume.