Top 10 specialty Web browsers you may have missed

These oddly useful alternative browsers offer such advantages as 3-D searching, social networking, easy scriptability, and powerful page manipulation

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Specialty Web browsers: Browse Wikipedia better with Gollum

Just as Facebook and Twitter are now big enough to justify Flock, a browser tuned to those data feeds, the Wikipedia's success begat Gollum, a browser that displays Wikipedia information and Wikipedia information alone.

I'm not sure if Gollum qualifies as a browser per se because it really just opens up a simpler pop-up window in whatever browser you're using. But people call it such, and I'll go along because it illustrates some of the possibilities of tuning a browser to a particular data feed. The heavy lifting of parsing and displaying continue to be done by your browser of choice, but Gollum gets the credit. Gollum merely passes the requests through a devoted proxy server and updates the page with AJAX.

This proxying will be most important to people who are blocked from reading Wikipedia, because the network traffic looks like URL calls to gollum.easycp.de. Your calls to read a page aren't going to the Wikipedia site, but to some innocuous place in Germany.

There aren't many features to Gollum, but that's sort of the point. All of the sidebars and extra information is stripped away to reveal just the pure text from Wikipedia. This simplicity ends, though, if you click on the edit button. Gollum opens a window in your browser that communicates directly with the Wikipedia server at edit.wikipedia.org.

Despite the thinness and the narrow focus, the project is worth noting because it shows how we can enhance many sites with post-processing. The Web designers think they're doing us all a favor when they add all of that AJAX goodness, but not every user agrees. So why not just scrape the data and reformat it in cleaner ways? It's worth noting that a number of other projects like Wikipedia Diver are adding information as plug-ins, a path that may be simpler and more efficient for everyone who doesn't need a proxy to hide from censors.

42TC-obscure-browsers-gollum.gif
Gollum opens a pop-up window to show a stripped-down version of the Wikipedia page. Some basic buttons at the top handle the important chores.
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