Iridium: Privacy-Focused Chromium-Based Browser

Iridium has been around for a little while now, but its market share remains relatively small in spite of its useful, privacy-related features.

Iridium is a privacy-focused modification of the Chromium web browser by members of the Open Source Business Alliance. Chromium is the open source basis for Google Chrome and other browsers such as Opera or Vivaldi. While it ships with less things Google integrated in the browser than Google Chrome, there is still room for improvement privacy-wise.

The idea behind Iridium was to enhance user privacy by modifying Chromium code. One of the improvements of Iridium is that remote servers are not notified about queries, keywords or other metrics.

Automatic transmission of partial queries, keywords, metrics to central services is prevented and only occurs with the approval of the user

Iridium Browser

iridium

Iridium is fully open source. Users may download and install binary builds of the browser, or download the source code instead. The developers promise that all builds are “reproducible and modifications are auditable”.

The Windows version of the browser is offered as a MSI-based installation file and a zip file.

The project homepage lacks information. It does not reveal any differences to Chromium for instance (besides the sentence quoted above). The same is true when you install and run the browser.

While you may spot a couple of differences, like that Qwant is the default search engine and not Google, there is little to discover in the browser’s interface.

What you will notice however is that several extensions are installed by default, and that it is not really clear what they do either. You may notice the component extensions Bookmark Manager, Chromium PDF Viewer, Settings and CryptoTokenExtension listed on the extensions page for instance.

These appear to have been sideloaded by the browser and don’t offer any description that is of use. Unless you dug into Chromium code before, you may not know that these are native component extensions of the browser that are not shown by default by Chromium / Google Chrome.

iridium browser

The only location to find information about what is different is the development changelog. It lists all changes made to the browser including those that were made to improve user privacy.

The following list is a short selection of modifications that improve user privacy:

  • Auto-Update and update pings are disabled.
  • Only keep cookies until exit, and block third-party cookies by default.
  • Disable hyperlink auditing.
  • Disable network / DNS prediction.
  • Disable autofill download manager.
  • Disable Safe Browsing cookie transmission and reporting.
  • Disable Google promotion fetching.

The list goes on and on. You may not agree with some of the changes. Disabling auto-updating for instance means that you need to download and install new versions manually. There is a time component to updating the web browser though to patch security issues in previous versions.

Closing Words

Iridium feels and behaves pretty much like Chromium. You will notice a few differences here and there, but the majority of differences are under the hood.

It would help the browser gain popularity if certain changes would be listed on the official project website, and not only in the change log that regular users probably won’t read.

Especially features that are unique to Iridium should be mentioned on that list. (via The Windows Club)

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