Privacy Browser PC Roadmap

Originally I was planning on finishing the 3.x series of Privacy Browser Android before starting work on Privacy Browser for other platforms. However, I feel the need from both my users and myself to speed up development of Privacy Browser for the PC. Accordingly, with the release of Privacy Browser 3.8, I am going to shift my primary focus to developing Privacy Browser for the PC and bringing it into feature parity with the Android version.

As I have written previously, my current plan is to develop Privacy Browser PC in C++ using the Qt framework with QtWebEngine as the rendering engine. This decision is influenced by my personal use of KDE as my Linux desktop. KDE is built on Qt, and over the years I have been more impressed by it than other Linux frameworks. It is also available under the GPL, which is important to me. However, my decision is not fully made at this point. I am going to spend some time playing with the tool sets and only commit to using C++ and Qt if it looks like it will work out well with where I envision Privacy Browser going in the long term.

Qt is cross-platform and it is possible to use the same codebase to build binaries that run on Linux, Windows, and macOS. I intend to support releases on Linux and Windows, but I currently do not intend to test or support macOS. This is for some of the same reasons why I have no current intentions of developing Privacy Browser for iOS. In the case of iOS, distribution of apps to most devices requires the use of the App Store, which is not compatible with the GPL. I could, as the developer, choose to release under a different license, but I am not inclined to do so, as I am philosophically in favor of the GPL and the rights it guarantees. Currently it is possible to distribute apps for macOS outside of the App Store, but, based on Apple’s own testimony, they would like to remove that possibility, and I believe that will happen unless they end up prohibited by law from doing so. Therefore, it makes no sense in my mind to sink development effort into a platform that will most likely eventually be cut off.

Qt can also be used to develop Android applications, but given the significant differences between how Android and PC apps function, and the immense amount of time I have had to spend trying to make things like the poorly thought-out Android Activity Lifecycle work with Privacy Browser, I cannot imagine that a browser built on a cross-platform framework would ever function as well as one specifically designed around Android’s quirks. As such, I have no intention of abandoning the Privacy Browser Android codebase unless that were to somehow change.

I spent some time considering names for the PC version of Privacy Browser. As it will be built on a different code base than the Android version, it needs to have some way to distinguish itself, at least for bug reports and feature requests. I thought of calling it Privacy Browser Desktop, but it will run not just on desktops, but on laptops, tablets, and even phones running Linux or Windows. Currently, I am leaning toward referring to it as the PC version. PC (Personal Computer) is a vague term, and arguments can be made that tablets and phones don’t qualify as a PC either, but I think that most people will generally know what is meant by Privacy Browser PC more than any other term I can think of. If you have other suggestions you are welcome to leave them in the comments.

Although the development focus is going to shift to Privacy Browser PC, Privacy Browser Android is not going to be totally abandoned during this process. Rather, I would expect that releases of Privacy Browser Android will be smaller and less frequent until Privacy Browser PC reaches feature parity. Then they will be developed in tandem.

I do not have any intention of monetizing Privacy Browser PC. Rather, as more people use Privacy Browser on their PCs, it will drive downloads of Privacy Browser Android. Between the $1 price of Privacy Browser Android on the distribution platforms where it costs money and the generous donations that I receive from users, I expect to be able to support the continued development of Privacy Browser.

19 comments

  1. I’ve been a happy user of privacy browser for years. The work that you’ve put in is incredible and I’m glad to have this instead of firefox (the next best thing but not really good) on mobile.

    I think that it’s important to note that PC users may really care about extensibility so the potential for webextension compatability might be worth considering. Perhaps Florian over at the excellent qutebrowser could give you some advice from his QtWebEngine experience.

    Thank you for a great browser!

    1. I’m glad you enjoy using Privacy Browser.

      Experience has shown that browser extensions are a privacy and security nightmare. Because of that I have no intention of implementing an extension framework in Privacy Browser.

      From a high level perspective, the concept of having extensions in a browser is based on the idea of wanting the browser to become an operating system. Operating systems or general computing platforms should have the ability to add custom programs or extensions. But, part of the core philosophy of Privacy Browser is that trying to make the browser a general computing platform is flawed by design and will never lead to a private browsing experience. Rather, the browser should be a limited web client that only does a few tasks and does them with privacy and security in mind.

      You can read more about this at https://www.stoutner.com/privacy-browser/core-privacy-principles/.

      I fully expect that many people who use Privacy Browser will continue to have other browsers installed. That way, they can use Privacy Browser when they want to have privacy and security and they can use their other browser when they want a general computing platform that can run rich web apps.

      1. I can respect that argument. Upon thinking about it more, the most important extensions I use are entirely related to privacy/security functions such as UBO. If such functions were to exist directly in the browser then I’d be a happy clam. I love using qutebrowser but sometimes it’s a lesser experience because its adblock implementation (borrowed from brave’s python-rust project) just isn’t as solid as ublock origin. That and cookies are harder to manage, etc. Building this all into the browser like Privacy Browser on Android does would be quite wonderful.

        1. Yes, I intend to include all the functionality from extensions like uBlock Origin, NoScript, and similar directly into the browser. Eventually the Android version will have it as well, although some of it will require Privacy WebView.

    1. The timeline will depend entirely on how long it takes to develop the features, but I expect it to be a while.

      I don’t intend to spend any time trying to make it run well on unsupported operating systems, because if the OS is not receiving security support there is nothing a browser can do to protect your privacy and security.

  2. Hi.
    May I suggest the name ‘Stoutner Browser’? (for both Android and PC). It is distinctive and would be more recognisable for passing on/receiving recommendations for a privacy browser.
    Best regards,

    1. I like Privacy Browser as it effectively communicates the focus of the browser better than Stoutner Browser would.

  3. Very nice work, loved it..
    I’m curious about the PC version tho and have been waiting 🙂
    Is there a possibility of randomizing fingerprints like brave does?

  4. Can you add a container feature? It will be handy if the user want to stay login in website and then login to different websites without the website(etc. Facebook) tracking them…

  5. I’m interested in the rationale behind developing a new QtWebEngine browser instead of contributing to an existing one (Falkon, Otter Browser, Konqueror).

    I think the Tor Browser Bundle and Firefox’s “privacy.resistfingerprinting” pref are good places to look regarding fingerprinting mitigations on the desktop.

    1. The design of Privacy Browser is significantly different than that of any existing browser on the desktop. As such, it is actually less work to start from scratch than to try to modify an existing browser. You can see an example of how different it is by looking at the Android version and comparing it to other Android browsers. I say that as a longtime user of Konqueror as my daily driver (I eventually had to stop using it after it had gone too long without being actively maintained and stopped being usable on a large portion of the web).

  6. How’s the progress going on? And is universal gif blocking can be added? Some local ads escape out of adblocks so gif blocking would be noice 🙂

  7. Hi, I use this browser on my phone and I love the experience. If I may ask, are there any plans in the future to stop supporting older versions of Android? I hope not, since I use this browser on my daily driver which runs Android 6.
    I doubt that naming the browser Privacy Desktop would lead to much confusion since the distinction of desktop/phone typically means mobile/smartphones vs other devices.

    Regards, PrivacyFan

    1. My intention is to only drop support for older versions of Android when there are bugs that affect Privacy Browser that cannot be fixed on those platforms. For example, the current minimum API is 19 (Android 4.4, KitKat). There are a few issues with icons not switching color correctly for the Day/Night theme, but overall the core functionality of Privacy Browser works fairly well on it. Likely the think that will kill off Android 6 is that the encryption library it ships with uses deprecated standards. When the internet decides in a few years that it won’t allow connections from anything lower than TLS 1.3, Privacy Browser will stop working on anything lower than Android 10.

      https://developer.android.com/reference/javax/net/ssl/SSLSocket

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_version_history

      Regarding the name, cell phones running standard Linux will be able to run Privacy Browser PC, so calling it Privacy Browser Desktop would seem a little off in that regard.

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