Thoughts on proxy browsers.

Posted 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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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    New article: Thoughts on proxy browsers.

  2. animatio says:

    well, i’d say the real issue with external proxies is security. if this matters – hands off of products in question. there ain’t the slightest chance of control of whatever.

  3. Will says:

    Note that the Turbo option in Opera for Desktop is completely different to the OBML compression used in Opera Mini.

    OBML is better for low power devices since it provides the best compression, transfer rates and tbe rendering is done on the server. With Opera Turbo mode, as far as I can tell, rendering is still done on the client-side and secure traffic does not go through the proxy.

  4. Chippy says:

    Will. I was (since I heard about OBML support in SDK 9.6) under the impression that OBML was the same as ‘Turbo.’ Can you point me to a reference so that I can research the difference between OBML and ‘Turbo’ ?

  5. Will says:

    I should have posted these links with my first comment:

    Opera Turbo is also very similar to web accelerators which have been available for years. The main difference is that Opera Turbo isn’t as configurable but it is free.

    Several mobile operators also use transparent proxies to compress images before they are sent to your phone or PC. When I was using Vodafone Australia’s 3G PC card software, it had an option to modify the level of compression applied to images.

  6. Chippy says:

    Will. Thanks for the links.

    Now I see what Opera ‘Turbo’ is. Its not quite the OBML support that I was thinking of. In effect it’s doing the same as what some carriers do via transparent proxies. (As you said. Vodafone have been doing it for 3 years in Germany too)

    I like the fact that flash content isn’t downloaded and the ‘delayed script execution’ element. Now wondering if that can be turned on anyway.

    Looks to me like you already have your own Turbo function with ‘NoScript’ where you are working on a network with transparent image re-compression.


  7. Chippy says:

    Good article on ‘delayed script execution’ here.

    Another reason to use Opera!


  8. TheWheat says:

    As stated on the Opera Turbo post:
    Your privacy is important
    Even when Turbo is enabled, encrypted traffic does not go through our compression servers. This means that when you are on a SSL site, we bypass these traffic and let you communicate with the SSL site directly. Opera generates statistics of the usage of Opera Turbo, but these are aggregated numbers and no information can be linked to a single user. Opera does not store any users’ private information.
    But we all must remember that there are still privacy concerns as sites still can transmit private information over non SSL connections and there is always the question of can you really trust Opera servers? But even saying that, I know this concern and I still use the turbo feature because it just totally rocks. Just be educated and use wisely =)

  9. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    @hadoualex Thats a good combo. Everyone needs a proxy and client-based browser in their arsenal.

  10. Lisa S. says:

    Great site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your feeds also, Thanks.

  11. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Skyfire is putting its neck on the line with the IOS app. Hope that server farm holds out! Thoughts on proxy web:

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