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Tech-Friendly: Iron and Maxthon browsers — fast as Chrome with fewer security concerns

November 13, 2013

By Paul Gorski

Some of us worry about the government spying on us; I worry about private companies spying on us and collecting the information in marketing databases. Sometimes that tracking starts with the Internet browser we use.

Google Chrome tracks pretty much everything you do on the web. Chrome tracks when you’ve downloaded Chrome, applied updates, where you’re browsing, and more. See https://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_chrome_vs_iron.php and http://donttrack.us/ for details about Chrome-specific tracking. Sure, you can disable some of this tracking, but not all of it.

Chrome defaults to the Google search engine. Google search modifies search results based on your personal browsing habits through a “filter bubble.” You might get different search results than other surfers using the same search term, as your search results are based, in part, on your recent browsing history. To be clear, a filter bubble is a search engine feature — to avoid it regardless of browser, use http://www.duckduckgo.com. More about filter bubbles at: ttp://dontbubble.us/.

So, I’m not a fan of Google Chrome or Search. I prefer a browser and search engine combination that doesn’t try to log every move I make.

SRWare’s Iron browser (https://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php) is based on WebKit (Chrome), but has removed Chrome’s built-in tracking and “phone home” features. Unfortunately, this also means auto updating has been disabled, so you will have to manually check for updates. Other than that, Iron should be as fast and work as well (or as poorly) with the same sites that work with Chrome. Iron is available for Windows and Macintosh computers.

The Maxthon browser is fast, too, and is built on the same technologies driving Chrome and Internet Explorer (Windows version only). Having this dual personality maximizes Maxthon compatibility with the wide range of websites available today. Maxthon also supports a variety of add-ons and extensions, many of the same extensions supported by Chrome.

Maxthon will track you, if you tell it to. Maxthon’s tracking is optional and tied to its cloud servers. Maxthon claims to be a “cloud” browser, allowing you to store links, files and app preferences in the “cloud” with access to these cloud resources from your desktop, laptop or mobile device. All this sharing requires you to log in to the Maxthon cloud server, and in doing so, will track some of your activities.

Maxthon’s cloud features are optional, though, and if you want a browser that is as fast and is standards compliant (should work with most websites), give Maxthon a try. Maxthon is available for Macintosh, too, but the Mac version only uses the WebKit (Chrome) engine.

As a bonus, Maxthon is also available for iOS and Android mobile devices. Apparently, Maxthon is extremely well-rated and popular at the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mx.browser. I haven’t tested the iOS or Android versions of Maxthon.

In case you were wondering about official privacy policies, Maxthon’s privacy policy is described here: http://www.maxthon.com/privacy/; Google’s Chrome privacy policy is here: https://www.google.com/intl/en_US/chrome/browser/privacy/; and SRWare’s Iron “privacy policy,” while not stated as such, is at: https://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron_chrome_vs_iron.php.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple Iie.

From the Nov. 13-19, 2013, issue

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