For quite a while, tabbed browsing on the Net was synonymous with Mozilla Firefox. The open-source browser was among the first applications of its kind to provide add-ons and themes that allowed you to choose the way the Net appeared and keep everything useful at hand.
A browser for India
Last month, Hidden Reflex, a Bangalore-based software company, building on the Firefox platform, launched India’s first Internet browser called Epic. Except, founder Alok Bhardwaj took browsing a step ahead. He incorporated country-specific themes and regional language support among other things, all based on the usage statistics of Indians.
“It was obvious that the browser — the locus of Internet computing — had begun to revolve around an extensive eco system of add-ons,” says Bhardwaj. “The Web would be so much more useful to Indians if everything they needed was just a mouse click away.”
Bhardwaj was clear that Epic was meant to make browsing more productive. The essentials were first simplified — Epic was designed to support a graphical interface and make navigation between tabs easy. Then they worked on customisation. “It bothered me to see low Indian language penetration throughout the Web,” says Bhardwaj. “So I took the Mozilla platform, which has a great add-on infrastructure, and launched a free, standalone product. Something that now runs faster than Mozilla itself!”
Epic has a formidable feature set that includes an in-built word processor, a sidebar that supports 20 apps, and embedded video streaming support. There’s also an app called MyComputer through which a user can access his hard drive through the browser.
For now, all the preloaded applications come for free, and the company is open to third-party developers. There are up to 1,500 skins relating to Indian art, sport, cricket, and Bollywood. “On Independence Day, we launched 14 new themes based on freedom fighters. And seeing how many people today use social networking sites, we’ve created apps for those on our browser, too,” Bhardwaj says.
Even so, security still remains their top priority. The browser has an embedded on-demand virus scanner by ESET that keeps away phishers and websites with malicious content. The company also uses the Web of Trust database, and never stores Flash cookies from visited websites. “Users never feel secure while downloading content from the Web. But if you have the right kind of protection, there’s nothing to worry about,” says Bhardwaj.
For convenience, a specific sidebar has been dedicated to videos. “Users can also download YouTube videos, and the application has been designed keeping in mind the bandwidth issues that India faces,” adds Bhardwaj.
The company is now working on cellphone iterations of Epic. For the time being, Bhardwaj’s focus is further customisation. “We’re hoping third-party developers will take the lead from the existing apps and approach us with ideas. Until then, we’re going to work on upgrades,” Bhardwaj adds.