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My search for minimal web browsers.

Burak Sümer
I create, write, read and learn.
・3 min read

Hi there, if you are reading this you're probably in the search of a new web browser that does not have bookmarks or other features that you don't and won't use. A browser that won't suck. I was and, am in the same search right now. There are some browser that do what we want, but not quite right. There are some in the mire of G00gle and I don't like G00gle.

What have I tried?

Chrome, Chromium, Brave, Opera, Edge, Vivaldi, Min and etc.

Yea, self-explanatory.

Mozilla Firefox

I've been a firefox user since I learned how to change browsers. Not because it was better at the time but because it wasn't as G00gled as Chrome was and to this day I still use Firefox. It has improved a fuck ton, believe me.
The problem with Firefox tho, it is not as minimal as I like, I has bookmarks for GNU's sake! I can not use something with bookmarks and all that feature that, again, I don't and won't use. Yet still, Firefox, I like you a lot. I use Vi keys for Firefox which makes browsing a whole lot easier for me.

Ungoogled Chromium

So, this is actually a very good browser in that, it omits most of the G00gle features and respects privacy more than other browsers but loses by still being a Google product. And also has bookmarks and etc. Features that I don't use.

Surf (Suckless)

Okay suckless, I've got some things to say to you. Yeap, you guessed it, it sucks.
I love suckless' philosophy, I love not having bookmarks, tabs and install just the things that I wanted, I used. Suckless is an excellent browser other than, it is slow. It is very, very, vey, very slooow. Suckless will open a webpage at least theree times slower than Firefox does. Also, hardware acceleration won't work properly, if there is actually one.
Also suckess, not having docs is NOT cool, it's dumb.

qutebrowser

So, qute, is actually very good in terms of minimalism. I really like the idea of a browser that is not very heavy on the resources, minimal and customizable. I've used qute for a time, BUT there is that little thing. There is no way to enable hardware acceleration, at least not in a secure way. I'm not going to buy a new PC for my YouTube or other internet consume, mostly video based, needs. Try to watch a video with it, you'll suffer a lot and I don't like that. If qute had or will ever have hardware accelaration it would, is going to be my first choice.

Vimb

I love Vi keys on the web, they help me navigate fast and I don't have to buy a new mouse because mine's scroll thumb is broken. Vimb uses WebKit engine, it in not G00gled and it is kinda minimal, I'm not so happy with the performance yet I'm still willing to give it a few more updates and see where it goes.

Projects I haven't tried yet

  • Next
  • Luakit
  • Safari (and I won't.)

So, Burak, what do we use then?

I genuinely don't know that. As for me, I'll try Vimb on the side and wait for qute to make video acceleration better and while doing that use Firefox, with Vi keys. I might make another update to this post or, yet better share a new blog. Who knows...

If you have any suggestions about what to use and according to my needs, please get in touch with me, I'll be happy to try whatever.

Discussion (5)

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ghost profile image
Ghost

I'm just in the same task, I think we are better looking for the Ark of the Covenant, it's more likely to exists, I used qutebrowser for a while, it's almost perfect but what it lacks make it crappy for me (no way to effectively filter content and after a while start using more memory than Firefox, with less features), I tried Dillo, really minimal, is annoying to get it working with SSL, yea, in 2020. Really minimal the closest to usable is links2, but doesn't support JS at all, and many sites don't work at all without it, my solution is to spread and leave the least possible in the browser, where is the thing. I'm asuming Linux here, if you are using Windows getting "minimal" makes no sense, is like losing weight putting less strawberries to your chocolate cake.

1) Embrace RSS/Atom, you can find clients really lightweight, newsboat on the CLI or liferea with a minimal GUI. there you put your github watched projects, reddit, news sites, hell even yout YT subscriptions.

2) Hell with YT videos in the browser, use the browser just to browse :) browser, browser, browser. With youtube-dl you can download videos and playlists and if you add mpv you just play the urls and on the background youtube-dl make the magic ;)

3) Get a really minimal browser to minimal tasks, I usually had 10+ tabs just with documentations open, maybe some githubs, simple stuff that most of the time even works without JS, for that I use vanilla surf, it sucks, is slow, does nothing but for lighweight sites is not that relevant, no tabs? who cares is just to check things quickly, in and out. Because suckless patches often fail to compile, and to hell with bookmarks, I just made a simple html with my bookmarks and added to my keybinding of surf, so it loads when I start surf, no need to export bookmarks or anything, just a good old

    with links, a couple of lines of CSS and is even dark mode for your bookmarks (and is multi-browser ;) ).

    4) For the few things that need a full featured browser, use Firefox, because, let's face it is the only choice, unless you want to eat all your RAM with webkit, by the way, that "magic" that makes Chrome a bit faster is mostly prefetch, which is not to good for the privacy minded. Afte a while you'll notice that the cites that really require a big browser are very few.

    Is not a perfect solution but works for me, I like RSS, is also less distracting and really fast and light, and doesn't track you :) and whenever I need to check the Rust docs for example, I just open surf and use my bookmark home page, 2 keys and a click and I'm there. Dillo and links can also work for that, sadly the searches in the Rust docs use JS so links is not enough, other than that is perfect, wikis? perfect wordreference, simple sites that work without JS, links is perfect, it has bookmarks but even with them it weights only 6MB installed, Dillo is also great, if it comes with SSL enabled (has to be compiled with the option and for some reason in Gentoo the flag doesn't work and I don't want to spend time fixing that) is great, even kinda good looking. w3m is annoying to work with, elinks seems to be abandoned, lynx, meh, didn't like it either. Maybe Midori, Falkon, Netsurf or Gnome browser, could work too. I hope it helps, I think I've found a perfect tool for everything I nedd, except the browser, is annoying, I understand your pain.

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bu profile image
Burak Sümer Author

I really like RSS and use it in my daily life for blogs and etc. But I don't really like the idea of waiting the inital download for youtube since where I live internet is pretty slow.
I'll try out the way you consume internet tho, maybe I'll set something up as to consume video trough a video player on my computer or something. That way, I really lower my dependency on browser for anything.
Let's see how that goes, thank you.

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Ghost

by the way, when you use youtube-dl on its own, you have to download the entire video, but whey you use it through mpv it plays while downloading, just like with the browser, it plays "real time", with the added bonus that you don't get the adds (extra bandwidth and delay), you don't waste also with the whole youtube site loeading, just the video, you can also ask the specific format you want or a range of quality. Is also less CPU/GPU intensive, mpv is much more efficient than the browser media player and because you only load the video (without the rest of the YT site) the video actually start playing faster this way ;)

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bu profile image
Burak Sümer Author

Yep, I really gotta get that set up ASAP. That's probably what I'm missing from my browser setup.