The Orfox Cometh
It seems like we don’t get to post much in the way of good or exciting news here on the Dark Android Blog usually, but today…well…today is a very different day for Dark Android! The excitement comes from an announcement by one of my favorite developer groups: The Guardian Project. Next to F-Droid and CyanogenMod, The Guardian Project is the very first place that I point people to as far as what apps to grab if they are interested in DAPS (Decentralization, Anonymity, Privacy, and Security). It’s a no-brainer when you see how closely they work with the The Tor Project and other organizations to deliver much needed access and abilities via a mobile device.
So what has The Guardian Project done this time? They’ve taken the mobile browser world by storm. While I have critiqued in the past their previous web browser–Orweb–for its lack of features, this is all about to change since it will soon be replaced by: Orfox. Orfox is–much like my previously recommended FSF-made IceCat–a Firefox-based web browser that removes all of the “questionable” features put in to Firefox as late, but Orfox works perfectly with Orbot (The Guardian Project’s Tor access app).
What are the advantages of using Orfox over Firefox, you ask? Let’s break some of them down.
- It is initially getting released, and will always be available and updated through the F-Droid app repository (it can also be downloaded as a separate .apk!). This is really important as one of Dark Android’s major goals is to get people away from using Google’s services, right down to the Play Store.
- You’re getting the latest bug fixes that Mozilla implements into Firefox, without the questionable features. This is all thanks to the largely open-source nature of Firefox, and the fully open-source nature of Orfox is a huge plus.
- While this might not seem important, there is something to be said for the notion of the “Tyranny of the Default” (meaning that whatever settings, etc., are going to be used just because it’s already set for that). The defaults in Orfox are solid, and even the bookmarks when you first open it are good. There’s a bookmark for making sure you are connected to Tor, and there’s even one for Facebook’s Tor site, which may send the unconscious signal to start using Facebook through Tor, and more importantly to use it through the browser instead of getting the privacy/security nightmares that Facebook’s apps are. Of course, it’d be great if people didn’t use Facebook at all, but if they’re going to, Orfox is the way to do it.
- WebRTC is not included in Orfox. The security of WebRTC (which allows for video calls right through the browser) is heavily in question, particularly when one is using a VPN, so it’s lack of inclusion can be seen as a bonus.
There will certainly be more to talk about in the future since at the moment, Orfox is listed as a “Stable Alpha Release”, and will have a beta release coming in the next few weeks, with a full release in the future. I’ve tried it out and the Alpha version of Orfox worked really well, but do keep this fact in mind depending on what you’re doing while using it (wink, wink). You can download the .apk directly, or through the F-Droid store (just make sure you have F-Droid installed, which, why wouldn’t you?).
Bottom line, Orfox is the real deal, and it is in many ways the browser I’ve been waiting for to really make Dark Android a much stronger concept and idea to use, since much of the modern things users would wish to do with their mobile devices–even in a Dark Android setup–I recommend doing with your web browser. And Orfox just made that much more appealing.