Browsing with Browzar - 06 Sep 2006

There's a new Web browser in town and so far it looks pretty darn good, especially from a privacy perspective. However, there is a caveat, which I'll discuss in a moment. The new tool, called Browzar, is available free to anyone. The current version is only 264.4KB in size. That's not a misprint, it's really that small!

Browzar is billed as "the first ever 'freedom' Internet browser" because of the way it works: It doesn't save a cache, history, cookies, favorites, or other telltale information. When you close Browzar, any information that was temporarily stored is automatically deleted, so you don't need to remember to do that manually.

Using Browzar is incredibly simple to use because it's contained in a single executable file, and technically you don't even need to install Browzar onto a system. If your system allows you to, you could just go to the Browzar site, click the download link, and tell the system to open the file and run it.

I took Browzar for a test drive and surfed many Web sites. So far, I haven't found any problems with compatibility. Browzar is currently available for Windows 98 Second Edition and later, and requires Microsoft IE 5.5 or later to be installed on the computer.

Obviously, Browzar gains a lot of its functionality based on the capabilities of an already-installed copy of IE. When I tested the tool, I found that it supports NTLM authentication, JavaScript, and other features such as Adobe Systems' .pdf files and Flash. Components to support the last two features were installed on the system I used to test-drive Browzar.

A quick test also revealed that Browzar's reliance on IE extends to IE's security settings. For example, if ActiveX controls and scripting are disabled in IE, then sites that rely on those technologies won't work in Browzar either.

Browzar's use of IE's rendering engine raises the question of just how secure Browzar really is. Browzar being based on IE could be a major drawback because many security vulnerabilities that affect IE will also affect Browzar. So keep this mind if and when you use it. Browzar is best suited for situations in which you want to make sure nobody will be able to easily recover your browsing history and other sensitive information that you might have entered while surfing various sites.

The only configuration settings available in Browzar are to have it check for updates (which is useful if you've copied it to any type of storage device) and to turn on or off the built-in pop-up blocker. The interface is clean and simple, providing only the typical address box along with the usual navigation buttons and a tiny search box at the top right of the screen, similar to that in Mozilla Firefox. The search box isn't configurable, so when you use it, your queries are sent to the Browzar site, which runs its own search engine. I noticed that a lot of the returned results are sponsored links. Of course, you're free to visit any search engine you want by entering its URL into the address box.

You can get the Windows version now at the URL below. Versions are also planned for Mac OS X and Linux.

Browzar will come in handy when you use shared computers, such as those found at libraries, hotels, conferences and conventions, coffee shops, and business partner and customer networks. Keep in mind that this newly released tool is still in beta development, so while it worked really well during my test, it does have bugs. For example, some people report that it doesn't delete all cached Web pages and others report that it sometimes might leave the last visited URL in IE's index.dat file. I confirmed the latter bug through my own tests but wasn't able to reproduce the first bug.

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