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Will this ultra-light browser still work in 2020?

by David
Will this ultra-light browser still work in 2020?

Since its inception in 1999, Dillo was the lightweight browser of choice for Linux users with much older hardware and is still used by ultra-light distributions. Its tabbed browsing and graphical support can make this a very tempting choice, but how well will Dillo work with most websites in 2020?

Why is Dillo so light?

Before you get started, you need to know exactly what Dillo doesn’t include, just to temper your expectations. Dillo does not include Flash, Java or Javascript and has only limited support for frames. It also does not allow you to create a user profile. Presumably, it will be the bulk of the modern Internet out of the picture, but who knows? We will see.

The advantage of all of these features is that it will work on almost anything – even a 486 with dial-up Internet. Operating at idle, Dillo used 2.9 MB of RAM and 9.5 MB of shared memory, which is microscopic compared to the GB of RAM used by modern browsers.

If you’re ready to surf the Internet, people have run it on Mac, DOS, and a bunch of Unix variants, but now the website just has source tarballs, mostly focusing on Linux. It can also work on the Windows, but the Dillo team does not actively like the platform!

We will focus on Linux in this article, as it should be found in just about every repository. If you prefer to install by terminal, for Debian and Ubuntu systems, enter:

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For Fedora, Red Hat, a CentOS system, enter:

And for Arch and Arch-based distributions like Manjaro, enter:

Once installed, you can start the application with the command:

Let’s start the tests

From Google, web search works pretty well, but the formatting is completely different from that of modern browsers.

Google Dillo Search

Gmail doesn’t work – it just complains about the lack of Javascript.

Dillo GmailDillo Gmail

Surprisingly, most of the other services, except Google Maps, work and forget to play videos!

Dillo Google EarthDillo Google Earth

Youtube? This just returned a blank white page, just like Instagram. When trying other social media, the Facebook home page went pretty well, but when we tried to log in, it just didn’t help.

Dillo's Facebook welcome screenDillo's Facebook welcome screen

If anything, navigation on Twitter looks improved. It warns you not to find Javascript and invites you to use “inherited Twitter”. If you continue, browsing Twitter is much more enjoyable, with a much more logical summary given to a person’s chronology. Unfortunately, like Facebook, he also refused to connect.

Dillo TwitterDillo Twitter

Ebay works in the sense that you can at least browse the items, but clicking on “Buy Now” returns an error on a missing page.

Dillo EbayDillo Ebay

The Lite edition of DuckDuckGo works fine with Dillo and may have been tested on the browser, but the regular version lacks broken navigation and formatting elements.

Dillo DuckduckgoDillo Duckduckgo

Tests from major news sites, BBC, CNN and Fox News have all worked surprisingly well if you don’t mind the misplaced navigation elements, and of course, none of the multimedia pieces. It was surprising to find that Reuters would not load, which was unexpected given the already minimalist layout of its website. All three sites suffered from strange stretched images.

Dillo Stretchy NewsDillo Stretchy News

Dragging the window inward to make the dimensions slim corrected the images, so she probably doesn’t like modern desktop resolutions.

Dillo Stretchy News correctedDillo Stretchy News corrected

Some minimalist websites have been tried at this point. Wikipedia works well.

Dillo WikipediaDillo Wikipedia

Slashdot.org somehow works, but the articles themselves don’t load, leaving the site useless. If you have a relatively simple WordPress site, it will probably look pretty good.

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It might be a good idea to try some Linux distribution websites. The Linux Mint page worked fine, although all the navigation elements suffered from the same strange spacing as that encountered previously.

Dillo DownloaderDillo Downloader

Not surprisingly, the Debian website works well, as do other decidedly old-school distributions like Arch, Gentoo or antiX.

General verdict

Does Dillo still work in 2020? No, not really – or at least, not for most people. But it’s not really surprising given that its last stable version was in 2015.

Aside from obvious issues like multimedia which doesn’t work, almost all sites display text navigation links in a strange way, spreading them vertically rather than horizontally. Many search areas don’t work either, and it looks like Dillo isn’t used to modern graphics layouts or widescreen resolutions, hence the stretched images.

But it’s not all bad news, and there are some cool features. For starters, there is tabbed browsing, and Dillo has a good, more detailed download manager than most browsers.

Dillo Downloader CloseupDillo Downloader Closeup

It also adds a “www”. if a website needs it and you haven’t entered it (a semi-modern feature that we take for granted these days), and in the lower right corner is a warning for any HTML bugs in the code a website.

If your use of the web is very old, you may be able to use Dillo. Its main users seem to be ultra-light Linux distributions and specialized embedded machines. If you are using something like Lynx due to very old hardware, you may be able to use Dillo instead, taking advantage of appropriate graphics instead of using text-only browsers.

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Do you like the niche of your browser? Check out our guide to 7 specialized web browsers you’ve probably never explored.

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