Enterprise Software

If you thought Uzbl was a minimal WebKit browser, you should see surf

If your standards for a Web browser involve being as lightweight as reasonably possible while still offering an at least somewhat mouse-driven interface and the ability to support a Flash plugin, surf may be the browser for you.

For people who appreciate the functionality benefits of a complete WebKit browser, but otherwise prefer minimalism and simple, lightweight design to characterize their applications, surf may be the closest thing to an ideal browser choice. Where Uzbl is pretty lightweight by comparison with feature-rich options like Chromium, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, surf is downright sparse in its feature set. In fact, it barely provides more than the raw WebKit rendering engine itself.

As explained on the surf page at suckless.org:

surf is a simple web browser based on WebKit/GTK+. It is able to display websites and follow links. It supports the XEmbed protocol which makes it possible to embed it in another application. Furthermore, one can point surf to another URI by setting its XProperties.

It does not do much else.

The result is a blazing fast, extremely lightweight Web browser that is fully functional in terms of the most basic capabilities demanded of a modern browser, but a browser that falls well short of the expectations of the average user. It has:

  • no auto-update
  • no built-in search engine access
  • no cookie management
  • no configuration file
  • no extension system
  • no password management
  • no standard bookmark system
  • no tabbing
  • no toolbars
  • . . . and no bloat.

Its entire source code repository contains about 30 kilobytes of files, including the license file, readme file, makefile, and logo image file. While it does not quite reach the standards of usefulness required to serve as my primary browser, I use it heavily as a back-up browser. I find it especially useful when I just want to open up a browser window to get past the login page to get Internet access at Panera Bread.

There is not much more to say about it. In my use, it has been stable, performs adequately, and is well-suited to the tasks for which I use it, and it has almost no features. It is distributed under copyfree terms, using the MIT/X11 License. The tale ends here.

It seems fitting that such an elegant little browser should be represented by such a brief article.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

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