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”.
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.
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.