Orion is a new web browser for macOS that has entered public beta testing. Kagi’s app uses Apple’s Webkit engine and includes plenty of customization options.
Since it is based on the same engine as Safari, Orion has native support for Apple Silicon such as the M1 processor.
Orion Browser for macOS – an overview
Orion has a built-in ad blocker and tracker blocker, which the company claims will block 90% of ads. It uses the EasyList and EasyPrivacy filter lists. The developers recommend using uBlock Origin for full protection and disabling the internal ad blocker from the Preferences > Websites > Content Blockers page.
This is where it gets interesting, Orion supports Firefox add-ons and Chrome extensions. It even has a small, curated library of recommended add-ons that you can install.
Or you can go directly to the Chrome web store or the Firefox AMO to install the extension of your choice.
This is, in my opinion, the selling point of the application.
The Manage window lists all the add-ons you have installed and also labels them as Firefox or Chrome, so you know which version of the plugin you are using.
Orion has a vertical tree tab view, which you can switch to by pressing Ctrl Command V. It hides the tab bar. The Vertical tab panel lets you drag and drop tabs to reorder them, switch between tabs, and close them. You can resize the side panel as needed, to show icons only or icons and title.
The app supports tab groups, but that’s not what it sounds like. Press the window button to the left of the address bar and you can rename the group. Create a new one and you’ll see that it actually creates a new window. Be sure to name the group, if you want it to sync.
Synchronization and other features
Orion syncs your settings and saves them via your iCloud Drive. It makes a good backup. The browser also supports Keychain for Passwords, Focus Mode, and a Low Power Mode, which can come in handy when your MacBook runs out of battery.
The browser supports blocking autoplay videos, just like Safari. You can configure Orion to stay on top of other windows, watch videos in Picture-in-Picture mode.
The announcement article states that the browser has no telemetry. Orion Browser does not share crash reports with the enterprise by default, but it does have an option to send these reports, if you allow it. It’s an opt-in feature, which is always a good thing to see.
Kagi founder Vladimir Prelovac announced the availability of a new search engine called Kagi. The company, which is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., promises a privacy-friendly experience devoid of ads and trackers.
The free version will allow limited usage (number of search queries), while the paid version will offer unlimited usage. The service requires you to create an account before you start using it. You can try a demo of Kagi Search on its website.
Kagi has announced that it will also offer a premium version of its browser, called Orion+. It doesn’t offer any special features per se, it’s just a way to contribute to the project and get some benefits like contacting the development team and influencing the product development. The announcement indicates that a Linux version of the browser is in the plans.
And now, for cons, the Orion browser is not open source, but indicates that there are plans to make the source code available in the future. I think this might be the biggest hurdle for the browser to attract users.
The toolbar customization panel is a bit glitchy. I couldn’t drop icons into the overflow window because the browser minimized it every time I clicked on a toolbar icon. I don’t like tab groups either, Vivaldi’s implementation is so much better.
The Orion browser’s extension support is good, but not great. I’ve used the browser with a dozen extensions, including Bitwarden, Dark Reader, Simple Translate, SponsorBlock, OneTab, and more.
I had problems only with the following extensions:
Auto Tab Discard – Shortcut not available in tab context menu. I had to use the add-on button instead.
behind! – Didn’t work at all.
Group Speed Dial – New tab page did not render correctly, but Options page worked.
Undo Closed Tab – The add-on context menu did not display the list of closed tabs.
If a Firefox add-on isn’t working properly, try the Chrome version and vice versa. Overall, the extension experience is mixed, but that’s to be expected since the browser is still in beta.
Download the Orion Browser from the official site.
Is Orion Browser worth using?
Yes, I would say it’s worth trying just for uBlock Origin, which is not possible with Safari. Orion is also pretty good when it comes to battery life, and that’s no surprise since it uses the Webkit engine, which is well optimized for MacBooks.
But, if you are a Firefox or Brave/Vivaldi/Edge/Chrome/Opera user who relies on a lot of extensions, you might have to give up a few add-ons to switch to Orion.
Have you tried Orion Browser?