5 alternative browsers built with Chrome


The open-sourced code for Chrome, known as Chromium , is freely available so anyone can create their own spin on Google's browser. We looked at five free browsers that run on Chromium, ranking them from the least to the most useful.

ZipZap Browser:

ZipZap Browser: Family friendly browsing

Runs on: Windows and Mac OS X

Who's behind it: JE Rhoads Company , which appears to be a small software solutions business. ZipZap Browser is very closely tied to a social-networking site, called ZipZap , which is geared toward families.

What sets it apart: ZipZap Browser puts mom or dad in charge of what sites their kids can visit. A parent can choose from several categories of filters that block out naughty and time-wasting stuff. The site advertises features such as parental controls over with whom their children communicate online, and "targeted activity links" based on the user's age and gender, but these are accessed through the ZipZap social network, so you need to sign up for a free account at the site.

Should I use it? This browser is so wedded to its corresponding Web site that everything depends on the ZipZap servers. How comfortable you are with using this browser, and allowing your children to, depends on how much you trust a Web site -- for a little-known service -- with all of your online activities.


Iron: Cut the cord with Google

Runs on: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (Debian and Fedora)

Who's behind it: SRWare, a German company selling customized hardware, software and online solutions, and they claim their specialty is in security.

What sets it apart: Iron removes the communication links between it and Google's servers, which Chrome normally maintains. Such calls that are absent include code by Google to update the software, and send mistyped URLs and error reporting to Google. The SRWare site lists the differences , and most pertain to saying "adios!" to Google.

Should I use it? Do you have an issue/paranoia with the Google mothership tracking your surfing, URL typos or butting in to suggest where you really intended to surf? Keep in mind, however, that Iron isn't designed to protect you from tracking that might be done to you on other sites through cookies and traditional means. This is a no-Google-stalking browser.


ChromePlus: Extensions, extensions, extensions

Runs on: Windows and Linux (Debian and Fedora)

Who's behind it: ChromePlus is rolled out by Maple Studio.

What sets it apart: As its name implies, this Chromium-based browser is pretty much Chrome with a slew of extras padded into it, including: mouse gestures, ad blocking, super drag (highlight words or a link, then drag and drop them/it into the URL box to search the words or go to the link), and a tab you can open that will fake out Web sites into thinking you are using Internet Explorer for those that stubbornly insist you use Microsoft's browser when visiting them.

Its main, extra UI feature is a sidebar app that slides out along the left side of the browser pane. You can install other apps that have been designed to work within this sidebar, like a bookmark manager, and mini versions of Facebook and Google Maps.

Should I use it? All of its touted features are available as Chrome extensions, but here they are presented as one package.

Comodo Dragon:

Comodo Dragon: Security conscious Chromium

Runs on: Windows

Who's behind it: Comodo Group, a New Jersey company with international offices that sells a multitude of security software.

What sets it apart: Comodo claims that its spin on Chromium offers more privacy to the user: it can identify and label SSL certificates as being "superior" or "inferior" (which means exactly what, we ask), stop cookies, and prevent all browser download tracking.

Comodo Dragon places a button to the right of the URL box which, when you click it, will scan the domain of the current page you are viewing through Comodo's Site Inspector service and then open a tab telling you whether it's malicious (e.g. known to harbor malware).

This browser also features domain filtering -- you can set it so all your URL requests route through Comodo's own secure DNS filters, which block access to domains known for spreading malware.

Should I use it? In other areas, when it comes to protecting your privacy, we wonder how much better Comodo Dragon is over simply using the "Incognito" mode of Chrome. Likewise, the SSL identification feature doesn't look all that different from what the latest releases and betas of Chrome/Chromium do.

But this Chromium-based browser could be an easy package solution for business use to prevent malware from entering an office computer or network due to a user's browsing activity.


RockMelt : Incorporates social media (Facebook)

Runs on: Windows and Mac OS X

Who's behind it: Of all the Chromium spin-offs discussing here, RockMelt has been the most publicized. It's backed by some serious investors who have plunked down $40 million so far.

What sets it apart: RockMelt incorporates Facebook's features so extensively that it may as well be the official-unofficial Facebook browser. The profile pictures of your Facebook friends who are online appear in a vertical bar running along the right side of the browser pane. You can click this bar so it slides out to show the names of your friends. Click on a friend's name or picture and a chat window will open that is part of RockMelt's UI (as opposed to Facebook's native chat box). There's a "Share" button set to the right of the URL box (to share the link on your Facebook wall). Even your profile picture, and the Facebook "Friend Requests," "Messages" and "Notifications" buttons are embedded into the left side of the tab bar.

RockMelt also supports Tumblr and Twitter, and sites that feature reader communities like The New York Times and The Onion.

Should I use it?
Do you visit and maintain your social networks a lot, and aren’t really interested in adding and using extensions to your Chrome browser? Check out RockMelt. We also found that its layout can work well on a small-screen netbook.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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