A site-specific browser (SSB) is a software application that is dedicated to accessing pages from a single source (site) on a computer network such as the Internet or a private intranet. SSBs typically simplify the more complex functions of a web browser by excluding the menus, toolbars and browser chrome associated with functions that are external to the workings of a single site. These applications can be started by using mostly a desktop icon using the favicon.
Site-specific browsers are often implemented through the use of existing application frameworks such as Gecko, WebKit, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (the underlying layout engines, specifically Trident and JScript) and Opera's Presto. SSBs built upon these frameworks allow web applications and social networking tools to start with desktop icons launching in a manner similar to standard non-browser applications. Some technologies, including Adobe's AIR and JavaFX use specialized development kits that can create cross-platform SSBs. Since version 6.0, the Curl platform has offered detached applets and the EmbeddedBrowserGraphic class which can be used as an SSB on the desktop.
An early example of an SSB was MacDICT, a Mac OS 9 application that accessed various web sites to define, translate, or find synonyms for words typed into a text box. A more current example is WeatherBug Desktop, which is a standalone client accessing information also available at the weatherbug.com website but configured to display real-time weather data for a user-specified location.
On 2 September 2008, the Google Chrome web browser was released for Windows operating systems. Although Chrome is a full featured browser using a WebKit based engine, it also contains a "Create application shortcut" menu item that adds the ability to create a stand-alone SSB window for any site. This is similar to Mozilla Prism (formerly WebRunner), now discontinued, but which is available as an add-on to the Firefox browser version 3.
Examples of applications of SSBs in various situations include:
- Social networking: dedicated application to access and use sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or personal blog pages
- Email: dedicated to webmail sites such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail
- Business: customer relationship management (CRM) or ERP client for sites such as Salesforce.com, specific web/browser hybrid implementations such as Elements SBM or intranet pages from suites like those sold by Oracle or SAP
- Mapping: SSB specific to maps from providers like Google Maps, Mapquest, or Yahoo! Maps
- Retail: desktop portal to major retailers that are accessed frequently or consumer services such as Carfax or CNET
As of 2009, site-specific browsers have not been developed for mobile browsers. Instead, the closest to such a sort of SSB that has been allowed is through Safari's iOS-specific feature of full-screen mode for specially-designed webpages which have been previously bookmarked on the iPhone OS Home screen as a "Web Clip".
Utilities that produce site-specific browsers:
- Fluid (Mac OS X only, isolated cookie storage (requires paid upgrade))
- Google Chrome (Windows and Linux only: "Application shortcut" feature, though not entirely sand-boxed like Mozilla Prism)
- Mailplane (Mac OS X only)
- Mozilla Prism (cross-platform, Flash compatible, and true application isolation (e.g., cookies); discontinued)
- Epiphany ("Application shortcut" feature; as of late 2011 Epiphany still doesn't work well with Flash)
- Internet Explorer 9 and higher
- NoScript's ABE module with rules like
Site x.com y.net Accept from x.com y.net Deny Site * Deny
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