Thoughts on proxy browsers.

Posted on 31 March 2009, Last updated on 31 March 2009 by

This post is based on some notes I made in 2008. Following the release of the Opera 10 ‘Turbo’ preview client and the announcement of Opera Mobile 9.7 with ‘Turbo’ (Proxy) option I thought it would make sense to publish the notes.

turboOpera 10 preview with ‘Turbo’ Option

Disadvantages of Proxy-based browsers

  • Scalability. Size of server farm. Global distribution?
  • Business model – Pay-for browser or will the operator ‘tweak’ advertising? Carrier controlled server farm? Free value-added service by carriers?
  • Security. SSL terminates at proxy?
  • Privacy. Data mining and sale of data. Police access to browsing records.
  • High latency
  • Accuracy can’t be guaranteed
  • Single point of failure
  • Net neutrality – You lose geo targeted advertising and content.
  • Geographic focused content (geo-restricted content could leak E.g. Hulu. Geo targeting fails)
  • Plugins (in-line WMV, flash 10 etc)

Advantages of Proxy browsers

  • Far more efficient bandwidth utilisation
  • Reduced time to display full content (on lower bandwidths)
  • Lower client processor requirement (battery life saving)
  • Content reorganisation for the target screen.
  • Easy to implements system-wide safe browsing controls. (Can also be regarded as a walled-garden and marked as a ‘disadvantage’)

Legal question. Are proxy services republishing content with modification? How can content owners be sure their content (including ads) is presented as they wanted it? Can they prevent proxy services from using their content?

List of proxy browsers.

I’m a fan of both proxy and client-based browsers and as such, a browser like Opera 10 with the ‘Turbo’ option really interests me. It would save data when I’m roaming or on a limited data plan and would speed up the display of information when in low bandwidth or on low-cpu situations. For the smartphone or MIDs based on ARM, the Opera Mobile solution with ‘Turbo’ (option again) seems to be perfect too. I also like the idea of an intro-level unlimited browsing service that can be tacked on to a users cellphone account for little-to-no cost thus introducing people to the advantages of having the Internet in your pocket. As a content producer i’m a bit worried that my geo-targeting will suffer but if it introduces people to the idea of Internet on the go, I’m more than happy.

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