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Zoho creates browser with 'Open Season Mode' for when you don't care about privacy

Indian software giant thinks you’ll ignore that in favor of the many tracker-killers

India's Zoho has decided the world needs a more secure and private browser, so has created one called Ulaa.

Zoho offers a personal productivity suite, but is best known for its CRM and for offering over 50 business applications that can link in an ERP-like – or perhaps ERP-lite – manner. The prices are very attractive compared to rivals – a tactic Zoho uses to attract SMB customers. It boasts over 90 million users.

Most of the developer's wares are SaaS. Stepping into a client app is therefore new territory, which may explain why Ulaa uses version 113.0.5672.77 of the Chromium engine. Zoho's working from a very mature code base.

The firm claims Ulaa can "prevent tracking of user data by websites and third-party trackers along with blocking unwanted ads, notifications, and pop-ups" and "does not track or share user data with any third parties."

Motion sensors are disabled in the browser, meaning measurement of mouse movement and clicks is not possible.

Ulaa also offers what Zoho describes as "a multi-ID model, which is frequently refreshed, making it impossible to correlate a signed in user to a browsing session." The browser also "disables the API that allows websites to connect and communicate with devices connected to a computer's network."

That all sounds very secure indeed, until you discover one unusual feature: an "Open Season Mode" in which all privacy enhancements are disabled. This mode includes a bright red theme "as a reminder of disabled data protection features, and informs the user they are being surveilled online."

The Register took the browser for a quick spin and found it pleasingly swift, and in no way confronting because it is very clearly a Chromium derivative. Once nice touch is a list of all the open source contributions to the application.

Can Ulaa succeed? History says no: the browser market is dominated by Google Chrome and Apple Safari, with Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Opera managing to remain viable. Over the years various browsers tuned to particular needs have come and gone without much impact – anyone out there using the privacy-centric Iridium browser, or with memories of the social-networking-centric Flock browser?

Ulaa has two things in its favor: Indian consumers' appreciation of Zoho as a standard-bearer for the local software industry, and the Indian government's promotion of locally developed technology. If Zoho can use those factors to score even five percent of the local market – which comprises 1.4 billion souls – Ulaa will become a player.

Because it's 2023, Zoho has also decided it's time for an AI injection, adding OpenAI tech to its own Zia brainbox. The result of that collab is the ability to deliver "scalable, conversational, and intelligent report analysis, sales predictions, prescriptive actions, grammar and translation services, anomaly detection, unified search with org-wide context," and more across Zoho's business apps.

It's also created ChatGPT for Zoho, to generate content in its Desk, Social, Writer, Mail, Assist, SalesIQ, and Landing Pages apps.

All of the above is hoped to continue sales momentum. The privately held outfit said it has recently seen 65 percent compound annual growth rates in the mid-market and enterprise segments, which now account for a third of its revenue. ®

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