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5 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance

Himanshu Arora | Nov. 7, 2013
Are Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome slowing your machine -- or are they simply more than you need? We look at some alternatives.

Dillo had the smallest memory footprint of all the graphical Web browsers I looked at (the only browser that beat it was text-based Lynx). It comes pre-installed in many Linux distributions such as Damn Small Linux (DSL) and VectorLinux.

What's new
Release 3.0.3 contains several major improvements, including configurable UI colors, speedy DNS requests when IPv6 is disabled and better window titles. Some new features, such as an effective mechanism to block ads and trackers, and the use of Ctrl+U to view page source, were also added.

What's good about it
Open the browser and the welcome screen displays plenty of information related to Dillo: the current release, change-log highlights, a link to the help manual, etc. This saves a lot of time for a new Dillo user.

Most of the websites I tried it with loaded within a second, although not all of them displayed properly (more on that in a moment). A bug meter at the lower-right corner of the browser window detects and displays any bugs that may occur if a site isn't compliant with Web standards.

Cookie support is disabled by default (though it can be enabled). Dillo never sends or accepts cookies while making a third-party request/response and is regarded as an RFC 2965-compliant browser. (RFC 2965 is the original specification for HTTP cookies. It describes a standard that an HTTP server and a browser should follow in order to securely exchange session-related information.)

Though Dillo has a very basic user interface, it supports tabbed browsing. Another good feature is that the browser cache gets cleared every time you exit the browser. This not only makes sure that temporary files and folders do not reserve extra space, but also eliminates the need to empty the browser cache manually. (Though it might put some users off because it hinders faster display of already-visited Web pages.)

Because it is so lightweight, Dillo can also be used with mobile devices and is useful when browsing local documentation such as saved HTML files.

Other considerations
For Dillo users, the low memory footprint comes at a price. The browser does not support websites that rely heavily on JavaScript, Flash or Java. (On the other hand, I never encountered any irritating pop-ups while browsing with Dillo.) It treats iframes as links and so displays them on separate pages. I tried browsing many popular websites but it could not display the sites accurately.

HTTPS support is disabled by default, which could frustrate users of Facebook and other sites that require it. The plug-in can be enabled manually, but I had to reconfigure the source with the --enable-ssl command, then recompile and reinstall the software, something that most users aren't likely to do.


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