A Highly Secure Web Browser – GNU IceCat

If you’re searching for a highly secure web browser and okay with it not being the most fastest browser, then Firefox is still the king. It’s open-source, respects the privacy of its users, though it could be a bit slowish when compared to browsers such as Google Chrome, but as the saying goes …

“Freedom is only for those who’re willing to pay the price … “

Now for users like you and me there’s nothing wrong with Firefox. But for those who’re concerned about a software and its licensing compatibility with GNU, Firefox is not 100% copyright free. To make a long story short, few years ago Debian and Firefox got into a fight over the some of the Firefox artwork and other trademark issues as they were licensed under a copyright version.

Because of that and since Firefox “supports” proprietary applications to build around it (add-ons) GNU developers decided to create a web browser based on Firefox code and release it under a “pure” open-source license. It was later called “GNU IceCat”.

The latest version 9.0 isn’t available (yet) in the Ubuntu PPA plus the Unity Application Indicator Menu doesn’t seem to work in 7.0.1 …

Not just the whole “proprietary” thing but according to the IceCat developers the browser actually has some enhanced security tweaks that are “missing” in Firefox such as:

*. Cunning images ;-):

Some sites use zero-sized images as a cookie. So even if you have blocked cookies in your web browser but now because they’re embedded into images, they could be used to “track user behaviors”.

But with IceCat, this is disabled by default and if it detects such as zero-sized image containing a cookies, it’ll block them (if you have troubles viewing sites then you can disable this feature manually).

*. URL redirect warnings.

*. GNU GPL licensed Add-ons.

Since IceCat only comes with non-proprietary software, GNU developers maintain an add-on repository of their own where you can find and install fully GNU licensed addons.

IceCat also comes pre-installed with Gnash (the GNU version of the Flash player) and few other addons such as:

1. HTTPS Everywhere: A addon that encrypts your data.

Encrypts your “web traffic” …

2. Priv3: A plugin that keeps you safe from social media sites’ and their “tracking” systems such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +1 and Likedln.

Other than that all other UI implementations and features are as almost as with Firefox. So I wouldn’t go into that :).

If interested, you can install GNU IceCat web browser in Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin, 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot, 11.04 Natty Narwhal, 10.10 and 10.04 by using its PPA. For that simply enter the below commands in your Terminal window.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnuzilla-team/ppa

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install icecat

Few hours ago they announced that the latest version of IceCat 9.0.1 (based on Firefox 9.0.1) is available. But it’s still not in the above Ubuntu PPA at the time of writing this. But within few hours I think they’ll update it.

IceCat Developers do take their time for each release. So you wouldn’t usually get a new version as soon as Mozilla releases a new version of their Firefox web browser. For instance IceCat “missed” the 8.0 version (as they jumped from 7 -> 9) but I guess that could be due to Firefox 8 not having “major” updates to its core perhaps

GNU IceCat only supports Mac OSX and GNU/Linux. No Windows versions are available (hopefully in the future they’ll release a version for the Windows users). So to get more information about it (installing manually, disable/enable addon pages etc) please visit this official GNU IceCat home page.

6 thoughts on “A Highly Secure Web Browser – GNU IceCat

  1. “hopefully in the future they’ll release a version for the Windows users”

    Why would something completely open-source be released on a bug-infested proprietary operating system?
    Again: “Freedom is only for those who’re willing to pay the price … “

  2. Because the phrase: “Freedom is only for those who’re willing to pay the price … “
    Is a proprietary sentiment and a terrible attitude to have towards your fellow man?
    People need to be walked into freedom slowly….
    In other words…don’t be jackasses…

  3. I don’t know if you are aware of the fact that get-apt does not work on MAC?
    No, this is not the way to install IceCat on a Mac. PLease correct it.

  4. Why are most of the best alternative browsers not available for windows? I can’t use Firefox any more as each update has memory leaks. Even though Firefox 43.0(the latest release) DOES have a way to reduce CPU usage it’s still not THAT effective. I can’t seem to replace Firefox to save humanity. I like Firefox, I just want the memory leaks fixed once and for all. Will it ever happen or are they keeping it this way on purpose? Even Cyberfox can’t seem to beat Firefox.

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