Firefox and Chrome(-ium) are both decent browsers in my opinion, and call themselves light. In truth, however, they support everything you can think of. The outcome is the standard recipe web-browser which takes a good 100MB off the RAM to run your favorite page, and a couple more to load a full browsing session. This may be adequate to you, provided you have the memory to spend, but it's kind of a waste to burn this much just to view a few tabs of content just to search something in Google. Hence, a lightweight browser isn't enough. It's time to dig for something deeper, a featherweight browser.
For starters, here are the minimum specs through which I define "featherweight" (as to separate them from crap browsers):
- Able to load html, images (png, jpg, gif), and render a proper site structure (not stacking columns, making you have to scroll down)
- Able to open content in tabs
- Memory consumption must stay below 50MB
- Extensions are optional, again welcome if #3 remains valid.
This is Mozilla's all-in-one Internet Suite. The program is a bundle of a browser, e-mail client and IRC, drawn from the same code pool as Firefox and Thunderbird, but with the premises of being a lighter alternative. In reality, I found it to be almost no different than Firefox itself, and that included the memory usage. The browser has a lower footprint than Firefox per tab, but that perk soon goes away when five or more tabs are opened. Just open up YouTube, and watch the consumption go to a whopping 230MB!
|Notice that it can use Personas and a variety of extensions, making it almost no different than Firefox itself.|
Final Score: 4/10
This browser is the follow-up to the classical Links text-based browser. The difference? It can display images, and therefore can be considered a GUI browser. The graphical interface (activated with the option '-g') resembles a lot of the classics, and is not pretty at all, but who cares. The web, or at least the meaningful parts of it, doesn't get any lighter than this. The browser rests at 6MB, and I doubt if it ever exceeds 10. It's also very stable, never crashing even when unable to load plugins.
|Command line just got Graphical.|
The only drawback I see with Links2 is that it doesn't feature any kind of tabbed browsing. Which is a pity, seeing that even Elinks - also forked from the original Links, but text-only - can do that. I frankly don't understand what's so hard about implementing tabs, a core feature in browsers today, in Links2.
Final Score: 6/10
Truth is that many other projects were forked from the original Links, and actually implemented the tabbing feature. I'm gonna talk about them below. They're very similar in nature to Links2, so I'll just post the details:
Final Score: N/A
|Nice tabs... but where did the images go?|
Similar to the above, it implements tabbed browsing into Links2. Installation was also pretty straightforward. Sounds great, right? Well, unfortunately it came with a few bugs that weren't on Links2, like the inability to load JPEG and GIF (only PNG, apparently). What the hell... how can you fork it and forget the very thing that made Links2 good? Gosh.
Final Score: 6/10
|The closest to mainstream that a featherweight can get.|
Final Score: 8/10
The bottom line
You don't need to add more RAM just to surf the web while using another application. These featherweight browsers can display the only things that matter on the internet: text and images. That's about 80% of the internet resumed. Obviously you wouldn't do bank transfers or watch TV shows through these browsers, but they do pack a punch despite their size. Maybe if you give enough time, Hv3 will mature into a stable, yet featherweight surfing machine.
Also, this calls for a lesson to webmasters. Quit designing your pages with that Flash or Java bullshit. You don't need a stupid applet just to present the readers with the information you got. Cut the crap, save bandwidth, and win nonetheless.
February 2012 by K. Zimmermann