A couple months ago I committed to taking the “Midori challenge:” for one week I would remove Chrome from my dock and commit to using Midori full time. Midori is a lightweight, speedy, and well-designed web browser for Linux (and Windows). It takes some clear visual cues from Safari, while maintaining its own unique identity that focuses on tight integration with the desktop while adhering to all major web standards and protecting users’ privacy.
Unfortunately, for quite a while show-stopping bugs and general instability left me simply unable to use it– even for short periods of time. No matter how much promise a piece of software might have, I can’t use it if it proves to be unreliable or prone to frequent crashes.
The Midori we have today is not the Midori we had even a short while ago. After months of bug fixes and meticulous care taken by the developers, it has turned into a product that is worthy of being your full-time browser.
I’ve meant to write this review for several months now, but I wanted to take my time and do it right. I can do a side-by-side comparison between Midori and any other popular browser, but at the end of the day it’s not a question of how well one browser performs in relation to another, or how many features browser x boasts compared to browser y. The real benchmark is whether or not people will want to use it over other browsers. Not only that, I have to consider whether it is reliable enough for them to use in the first place.
I love Midori on Linux for many of the same reasons that I love Safari on Mac OS: tight system integration, consistency with other desktop apps, and thoughtful simplicity. I’ve always been unapologetic in professing my love of Safari. I love how elegantly it blends in as part of the system. I love the built-in readability mode and read later list. It transforms the messy web into a less-chaotic, manageable place where I can consume. It allows me to easy swipe back and forth between pages that I’ve visisted. It lets me keep an eye on downloads without having to comb through a million menus.
Midori is the first significant attempt to reach parity with, and hopefully eventually surpass the quality of, Safari on the free* desktop. When I click the launcher for Midori, it immediately loads and displays itself. By default, it picks up exactly where I left off browsing on the web. I don’t have to spend any time worrying about theming (since it uses the system GTK theme), or searching for extensions (although extensions are available), or changing it to better work with the web.
Midori is open source and is fully compliant with all major web standards. HTML5 content displays and plays itself exactly like I would expect. The interface is clean and easy to figure out. The user isn’t faced with an unending array of meaningless options and confusing features. The entire experience is refined, and lets you get to enjoying the web instead of figuring out how to use it. Even the error messages are beautiful and easy to comprehend:
More advanced features built on open web technologies that work in other browsers work equally well here. It is built on top of WebKit (same as Safari, Opera, and until very recently, Chrome), bringing with it the same great speed and accurately displayed web pages. As a user wanting an unhindered web surfing experience, Midori delivers. Then again, so do many other browsers- so what exactly would compel you to use this over any other browser available on the Linux platform? A lot, it turns out– and I’ll elaborate.
The deep system integration is really lovely. When downloading a file, it automatically assumes I want it to be stored in the downloads folder. I can always choose a location to save a file by right-clicking, but by default it goes ahead and downloads it to the right folder without nagging me about locations or other options. If I want to check the progress of a download, I can go the gear menu and click ‘Transfers.’ This isn’t really necessary, though, because after a download is complete it sends a standard system notification letting me know it’s finished. While I admit that I do prefer Safari’s Downloads button better than the transfers menu, this gets the job done, and the notification following a successful download is a really nice touch.
Not only is it fast, simple, and superbly integrated, Midori respects my rights as a user more than any other browser that I know of. It includes built-in features like script disabling and third-party cookie blocking that are meant to help you maintain your privacy. It also strips referrer details to help keep you as anonymous as possible. Advanced privacy features like an adblocker and cookie manager are also available, and can be activated with a single click in the gear menu. It also has DuckDuckGo set as the default search engine, which allows you to search the web anonymously. It doesn’t track you or your searches, and can keep other parties out of your business by allowing you to search using 128-bit SSL encryption.
Issues and Downsides
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few issues that you are almost guaranteed to run into. There is one substantial roadblock that will hinder many users: without a significant amount of trickery and effort (and even then, only with less-than-stellar results), Flash doesn’t work inside of Midori yet. It isn’t a philosophical disagreement or general usability concern- rather, Flash doesn’t play well with the technologies that Midori relies on.
There is also one bug that I encounter from time to time that can be fairly frustrating: if you close a tab that is still loading content, the entire browser may crash unexpectedly. This isn’t a huge problem if you have it set to start back where you left off, but either way it is a frustration. This is a known issue, however, and should be fixed relatively soon.
While Midori isn’t going to fit everyone’s needs, I think it is definitely worth taking a look at if you’re running Linux and want a beautiful, fast, well-integrated web browser. While I only committed to using it for a week, I have been using it full-time for several months now, and I haven’t looked back. It is a really nice product and I enjoy using it to surf the web. I also really appreciate the advanced privacy features. It’s a great fit into my work flow is and it what I was wanting in an open source browser. Give it a try for yourself!
Midori Homepage: http://midori-browser.org
Midori on Launchpad: https://launchpad.net/midori
elementary OS: http://elementaryos.org
*as in freedom