Dillo: a eulogy

Posted by HEx 2013-11-26 at 09:44

Dillo has been my web browser of choice for a decade now. This tends to provoke either blank stares or sniggers depending on whether I've previously told whoever I'm talking to about it.1

Dillo is not a browser you would give to Mum and Dad.2 Dillo does not sing and dance and run arbitrary code. Dillo is not Web 2.0. Dillo does not have gradients and rounded corners. Dillo has never heard of HTML5. (Dillo has heard of CSS, but will feign amnesia when asked nicely. Site authors do not know my colour and font preferences better than I do.)

Dillo renders HTML 4.01, and will happily quote the sections of the spec your page is violating. Dillo does not send cookies or Referer headers. Dillo does not claim to be Mozilla only to admit later, in the small print, that that's a lie. Dillo identifies itself as “Dillo”.

Dillo has never once shown me a banner ad. Dillo laughs in the face of pages that plead “refresh me every 30 seconds!”. Dillo never hits the network without permission. Dillo keeps every document ever fetched in memory. (Disk cache? That's what swap is for! And other programs get to use it too!)

Dillo does not run on Microsoft Windows. Dillo requires you to edit configuration files using an actual text editor (remember those?). Dillo is, in short, a browser for purists. It does one thing and does it well. Using Dillo as your sole browser would be pure masochism. But it's lean, it's mean, and it keeps going long after bigger browsers would have keeled over under the weight of all the crap the modern web demands of them.

Sadly, your choice of sites is increasingly limited.3 But a fine test of whether a site is worth visiting is whether it is usable in Dillo. As for me, I rarely browse Wikipedia or search Google or read Hacker News using anything else.

And long may it remain that way.

[1] Of course, nobody has ever heard of Dillo before I tell them about it.

[2] That is, unless you're trying to keep them off the internet.

[3] As a proportion of the sites you might want to visit, that is. I doubt the absolute number of dillo-friendly sites is dwindling. Nonetheless, the day I discovered that Google Groups—an interface to an entirely text-based medium, let's not forget—now required javascript for even minimal functionality is the day I knew the web was doomed.