Yandex’s browser enters beta, with a strong focus on privacy outside Russia

Yandex’s browser enters beta, with a strong focus on privacy outside Russia

Russian Internet giant Yandex has launched the new, beta version of its Chromium-based browser first unveiled in the end of 2014. In addition to an experimental minimalist design with ‘chameleon’ title bar and tabs put at the bottom, the beta includes a bunch of neat privacy-related features for those concerned about having full control over the data they share online.

The decision to focus on privacy was made after receiving feedback on the alpha version of the browser, particularly from Germany and the U.S., Yandex spokesperson Vladimir Isaev told TNW.

“Outside our home markets of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Turkey, the leaders in downloads are Germany, Vietnam, Brazil, and the US,” he added.

Sharing versus caring

At the first glance, the beta of Yandex.Browser is not very different from the alpha we saw half a year ago. There’s a certain futuristic feel to it, probably because of the semi-transparent title bar and motley tab bar, where a tab’s color is based on the color scheme of the website its displaying.

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You also won’t see bookmarks or even the address bar: to access those, user need to click on the title bar to get to the “flip side.”

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In addition to that, developers have addressed the issue mentioned in the initial review and made it possible to manually reorder tabs, which makes the browser much more usable. Tabs displaying different pages of the same website are force-grouped and will collapse into one when inactive.

What has really changed since November is the way how the browser handles all things privacy. There’s now a small button in the top right corner that turns on Stealth Mode, a tool that blocks user tracking code on websites, including analytics cookies, sharing plugins, etc.

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The feature is quite flexible, allowing users to whitelist certain websites and choose what exactly they want blocked on pages.

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According to a post in Yandex’s blog, Stealth Mode has been built by AdGuard and is an open source solution with its code available for everyone to read and work on on Github.

In addition to this feature, the new browser shares almost nothing with its developers by default. While it’s possible to do the same in other browsers, “the right to make a decision whether to share this information is effectively removed from the user – few can find a pathway to customised privacy settings in a browser,” Yandex stated.

International ambitions

Although privacy concerns appear to be quite substantial in today’s Russia, Yandex is targeting the safety-focused version of its browser on foreign markets.

“It will be available in Russia but it won’t be our main offering. The main reason is that all our own services, like Search or Recommendations, are based on knowledge about users and their behavior,” Isaev said. “That’s why in Russia we’ll offer a version that is deeply integrated with Yandex’s services.”

The beta version of the Yandex.Browser is available for Windows and Mac OS in 15 languages, including English, German, Portuguese, Spanish and French.

➤ Yandex.Browser [Windows | Mac OS X]

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