Lightweight Dillo browser springs back to life, still doesn't care about JavaScript

First new version in almost a decade now boasts TLS

The Dillo web browser has returned with a new release, version 3.1. It's nearly nine years after version 3.05 appeared on the last day of June 2015.

Version 3.1 incorporates dozens of fixes and improvements, as the official announcement describes.

Project lead Rodrigo Arias Mallo announced his resurrection attempt on Hacker News early this year. He has taken the last available code from the project's Mercurial repository, incorporated about 25 outstanding fixes, and added as many again of his own.

Dillo 3.1 – it works, it's tiny, it's very fast, but a lot of modern sites will look weird or broken

Dillo 3.1 – it works, it's tiny, it's very fast, but a lot of modern sites will look weird or broken – click to enlarge

Dillo is a super-lightweight graphical web browser for Unix-like OSes, written using the Fast Light Toolkit. The latest version has a number of new features, although one of the most significant is support for Transport Layer Security. TLS is the successor to SSL, with a Microsoft-approved name. Dillo 3.1 supports it thanks to the Mbed-TLS library.

Even so, Dillo remains very limited. It doesn't support frames, embedded media playback, and, biggest of all, JavaScript, so most of the modern web is inaccessible to it. However, it can run on very low-end hardware – users report success on 486 PCs with 32 MB RAM – so it's the browser of choice for several ultra-lightweight Linux distros, such as the also recently revived Damn Small Linux.

It's even smaller than NetSurf, the other modern JavaScript-free ultra-lightweight browser – originally native to RISC OS, and still bundled with it, as can be seen in the screenshots of our recent story on version 5.30.

Dillo dates back to 1999 and was originally written by Chilean developer Jorge Arellano Cid, and has its own rendering engine formerly maintained by the late Sebastian Geerken.

However Sr Cid last posted to the mailing list in 2019 and has been silent since. Its domain expired in 2022, although someone bought it and repopulated it from the Wayback machine.

There have been a number of attempts to continue it, including DilloNG, Dillo+, and the PinePhone-centric Mobilized Dillo, as well as the older D+.

We hope that the other developers who've been working on forks of Dillo in recent years can unite around this project, or at least trade patches. The Reg FOSS desk would very much like to see a renaissance of the lightweight, script-free web, accessible to minority OSes and people who only have very low-end hardware.

The new Gemini protocol aims to be a lighter-weight hypertext web, but we don't see any need for that when web 1.0 is still right there and highly functional. ®

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