Current desktop machines are equipped with multi-core processors, gigabytes of system RAM and the ability to run many programs simultaneously. With the huge range of system resources available it is not surprising the software bloat phenomenon is witnessed. This is a process where successive versions of an application consume more system resources than necessary, or offer an ever-increasing number of features that the majority of users do not use or need.
The field of web browsers is dominated by Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. To try to counter software bloat, the developers of these browsers make use of plug-ins, extensions or add-ons. This means that the extra functionality offered by these tools are made available to only those who actually need them. Nevertheless, these web browsers still have one thing in common; they do not have a particularly small footprint. Whilst they run fast on a well specified modern PC, there are many users that are using much more limited hardware. These low spec machines can be extremely popular.
For example, witness the uproar that has been generated by the Raspberry Pi, a single-board computer that costs a mere or . With its ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz CPU and 256MB of RAM (some of which is allocated to its GPU), this single-board computer simply does not have the resources to run a heavyweight web browser. There is a lot of hardware being regularly used where a web browser with a small footprint has real benefits.
Now, let’s explore the 8 small footprint web browsers at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot of the software in action, together with links to relevant resources and reviews.
|Small Footprint Web Browsers|
|Uzbl||Web interface tools which adhere to the UNIX philosophy|
|Netsurf||Has its own layout and rendering engine entirely written from scratch|
|Midori||Based on WebKit and the GTK+ 2 or GTK+ 3 interface|
|Dillo||Small, stable, developer-friendly, usable, very fast, and extensible|
|ELinks||Feature-rich program for browsing the web in text mode|
|Lynx||Very fast and easy to use text mode browser|
|Arora||Simple webkit based web browser using Qt toolkit|
|Falkon||Lightweight Webkit browser following the UNIX philosophy|
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