TL;DR: Looking critically at today’s leading web browsers, the team at FlashPeak knew there had to be a better approach to surfing the internet. Sure, the top browsers all had something to offer; however, the FlashPeak team found them all lacking in one area or another. So they rolled up their sleeves and developed Slimjet. The new practical browser takes the best elements of today’s web surfing technology, such as security, privacy, and performance, and combines them with an optimized usability that enhances the end user’s experience. The goal was to strike the balance between the technical complexity required of an updated web tool with an intuitive interface to allow an array of use cases — and FlashPeak delivered with Slimjet.
Web browsers are an essential part of any online experience, as they translate code into a visual medium users can understand. One of the most basic programs — and therefore most often overlooked — browsers connect users directly to the internet, allowing access to an endless supply of applications, information, and dynamic content.
Most operating systems come equipped with a standard browser that corresponds to the platform type and brand — for example, Safari for Apple devices, Internet Explorer and Firefox for Windows, and Chrome for Google-based products. As a result, some users prefer one browser over others because it’s what they’ve become accustomed to using.
Others turn to browsers for their specific functionalities. In the case of Firefox and Chrome, users are attracted to the variety of plugins and themes available. And, if simplicity is what’s desired, Internet Explorer or Opera are popular with casual web surfers.
The team at FlashPeak recognized the need to balance valuable feature and customization options with usability and a clean interface, so they created Slimjet and delivered a browser with universal appeal.
“We originally developed SlimBrowser based on the IE engine. However, we ran into more and more limitations, as Microsoft only allows for a limited API,” said Stephen Cheng, President of FlashPeak, Inc. “Therefore, we started developing Slimjet based on Chrome’s engine.”
Stephen told us that while Chrome is very popular and has many redeeming features, it still falls short for some users, especially where privacy is concerned. By dabbling in the source code of several browsers, it became clear that the best possible alternative would be one that took full advantage of the combined security, performance, and usability offered by the top three — Chrome, Firefox, and IE — and, thus, Slimjet was born.
Combining Design Best Practices to Create a Seamless UI
While equipped with features found in both Firefox and IE, the majority of Slimjet’s code is taken from the Chromium engine, on which the Google Chrome browser is built. Like Chrome, Slimjet is compatible with Web Store plugins, themes, and extensions. According to Stephen, the original SlimBrowser was limited by Microsoft’s proprietary API, as well as the security, compliance, and performance shortcomings of Internet Explorer.
In addition, IE’s lack of support for third-party plugins was in stark contrast to the vast libraries of add-ons for Firefox and Chrome.
“Chrome has great performance and people like it. That’s why it became so popular,” Stephen said. “But, just because it was popular, people assumed it was the best.”
Concluding that Chrome was a suitable but flawed browser, the Slimjet project gained momentum as FlashPeak sought to make a more aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly interface.
After choosing the Chromium engine, FlashPeak decided its product should improve upon Chrome’s limited flexibility and design elements. While Chrome can be customized with themes, its main interface is fairly minimal, with advanced features tucked away behind menus.
Firefox similarly comes packaged as a bare-bones browser, often lacking even a flash plugin. While this simplicity is welcomed by many users, others with less technical knowledge may find it hard to enable certain features and options. Similarly, advanced users need to be able to easily tweak the browser to their liking without having to deal with a messy interface.
Slimjet was intended to be the optimal browser for all occasions and all users based on its actual features, rather than piggybacking on pre-existing popularity.
“Mozilla and Microsoft follow the same design style, removing the menu bar and burying the advanced options into a deeper place,” Stephen said. “After people live with this style for long enough, they tend to think it’s the best. Remember when Microsoft removed the original menu bar and replaced it with the ribbon? People hated it so much at the beginning, but are used to it now.”
Stephen told us that, by combining the aesthetic simplicity of Chrome and IE with Firefox’s unmatched potential for customization, Slimjet exceeds the expectations of both casual and advanced users.
Striking the Balance Between Complexity and Simplicity for Any Use Case
Slimjet, as with many custom browsers, seeks to strike the balance between simplicity and complexity. The lack of fancy features means high performance and easy usability, while the inclusion of such features adds a wide variety of new capabilities.
Slimjet’s development team decided to go with a slightly minimalistic approach, packaging the browser with a handful of built-in features and leaving any other desired plugins, themes, and add-ons up to the user to install. This allows users to customize the browser to their specifications.
“There are users who just want to surf a few websites and read emails,” Stephen said. “But there are also users who want to do more powerful things and who value high productivity.”
Features added by Slimjet users are primarily displayed along its toolbar, allowing for easy access and minimal clutter. Power users and casual users alike are able to easily access Slimjet’s baked-in features without having to pull up a separate window or tab for the menu.
“If you hide a valuable feature so deep that even a computer-savvy user can’t find it, you might as well not design that feature at all,” Stephen said. “That’s the balance we are trying to strike. We want to make it easy to use for regular users, while still letting power users find the features they want without too much struggle.”
Slimjet can also suggest and present useful features when appropriate, making access even easier for those with minimal computer knowledge.
A Toolbox Full of Features Built Around the Needs of Modern Web Users
As Slimjet sought to balance simplicity and versatility, its developers were faced with a number of decisions during its development.
“There comes the tradeoff between relying on external plugins and implementing features internally,” Stephen said. “To give us a strong enough differentiation, we have chosen to get with the latter approach.”
While Slimjet is compatible with Chrome’s numerous plugins, FlashPeak intended for the browser to be sufficient for the most typical use cases out of the box. Power users can still add to the browser as needed but may find that their favorite features are already included. As such, Slimjet comes pre-packaged with a handful of useful features, such as an ad blocker and auto-form filler.
“We try to integrate the most popular features internally without blowing up the installation package or slowing down the browser performance,” Stephen said. “People can get access to more powerful and convenient features in a couple of clicks without installing any plugins.”
Other features include privacy options, Facebook integration, easy photo editing, and a flexible translation tool.
Protecting Privacy with Chrome Synchronization and VPN Support
Because Slimjet is Chromium-based, the team must periodically synchronize with official Chrome releases.
“The Chrome team at Google makes major releases every 1.5 months,” Stephen said. “With every release, they move files around, renaming functions and revising the APIs. We like to stay in sync for security reasons.”
Although this process consumes much of the dev team’s time, it serves as added protection for user privacy. FlashPeak’s concern with security is further demonstrated by its built-in anti-tracking features.
“For future releases, we might consider adding built-in VPN support to further protect users’ privacy,” Stephen said.
Intended to be the ultimate browser for any use case, Slimjet was created to take advantage of the top browsers’ best features, from interface design to advanced privacy options. Reconciling simplicity with versatility, Slimjet offers a collection of the most widely used features that can be supplemented with a plethora of add-ons. With the potential for — rather than the constraint of — complexity, Slimjet retains a simplified, clean interface, rolling everything a user could want from a browser into a single package.