Beyond the biggies, there are some cool new browsing options on offer. We check out three recent options
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, November 7 2016: The days when one could create a smart headline about Browser Battles are over. Those wars are history. Google's Chrome rules both desktop and mobile platforms. Microsoft has moved beyond Internet Explorer and has added some thoughtful tools to its new browser, Bing. And Firefox present mostly on PCs, has reinvented itself for portable devices.
But these days one can think beyond the Big Three. Some cool browsing options are on offer from independent developers and each of them has some special strengths, and features to offer. I have narrowed down these challengers to three global contenders . Two are available in portable (mobile phone and tablet) avatars. Having tried out the latest versions of all three for a few weeks now, I have tried to highlight which are the most compelling differentiators of each of them. Give one or more a try -- I am betting you will find some features that are not available in the Usual Suspects.
Opera: It is 20 years since the Opera browser was first launched by the Norwegian telecom company Telenor. Their big explosion came when they launched Opera Mini for phones. In July this was redesigned for India for Android users, with a major content partnership with Bollywood Hungama to provide curated film news, box office updates, collections, interviews and reviews. The partnership gave users access to 50 Bollywood stories a day, 1 lakh celebrity photos and wallpapers, 15,000 videos, and half a lakh songs. India is the largest market for Opera and it is only in India that Opera partners with local content providers.
The India Opera Mini also offers support for 13 Indian languages; a built-in media player and the ability to download videos from popular social networking and news sites directly onto users’ smartphone or memory card.
Some features of the global browser make Opera worth considering. Since May, an ad blocker is built in and does not need additional download. Also notable is the free Virtual Private Network feature akin to a virtual fence around your browsing that lets you reach sites that may be barred to you otherwise due to geographical restrictions. The Wi-Fi test tool in Opera VPN will scan a Wi-Fi network to check if it’s safe. Opera Mini can be downloaded free for Android devices at Google Play. In July this year, the browser was acquired by a Chinese Internet security company, Qihoo. We have to wait and see how Opera evolves in the future.
UC Browser: Owned by Chinese online e-commerce giant, Alibaba, UC Browser has been available for all major platforms since 2004. But its mobile avatar is the flagship product -- and the no. 1 own browser on phones in India, with some 80 million active users. It is trying to push Indian users into what it calls the GUF era -- Google+UCWeb+Facebook.
The browser has cemented its bond with Indian users, by a news feature and a content tie up with Colors TV. News from UC feeds are now integrated with the browser. Once a user selects his favourite topics, the algorithm adapts and offers more information on the topic of choice. The information is available in 2 languages - English and Hindi, to be followed by other Indian languages starting with Tamil.
The partnership with Colors is centered around four popular TV shows Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, 24, Big Boss and Comedy Nights Live. UCWeb will create multiple engagement platforms around these shows. Users of the browser will can final commoner participants of the Big Boss house through a popularity poll from among 13 shortlisted candidates. UC Browser users have a chance to make some of these people, celebrities through the poll. Users for whom their phone is an extension of TV, will find some definite advantages with UC Browser. There is also the benefit that you can go incognito when browsing . You can download UC Browser for Android at Google Play
Vivaldi: This new browser, with its roots in Oslo, Norway, has an interesting origin. In 2015 Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder and the former CEO of Opera, started a new company, Vivaldi. Spurred by the imminent sale of the Opera browser, Tetzchner and his employee-owned company unveiled version 1.0 of the Vivaldi browser in April this year, with the stated aim of making browsing productive, efficient -- and fun. It has already gained more than a million users worldwide and Tetzchner is in India this week to build up the business here..
The browser is now in version 1.4 and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. at Vivaldi.com. It offers some neat advances on current browsers that will appeal to people who like to do 'parallel processing' -- opening and using multiple pages at the same time. To reduce clutter on the desktop, Vivaldi offers tab stacks. Drop tabs on top of each other to create a stack and you can customize how you switch between them. If you have a large screen, you can open multiple tabs and view them side by side. With web panels, you can add individual websites to Vivaldi’s side panels to browse alongside your main browser window.|
There are a few other nice things about Vivaldi, like the ability to make it understand mouse gestures for rapid action. Or the notes tool where Vivaldi remembers which site you were browsing at the time, and allow you to take screenshots as well.
The 18th century Italian music composer Vivaldi was best known for his work, the 'Four Seasons'. The cyber Vivaldi looks like being a browser for all seasons.