At Zoholics in Austin this week, Zoho has launched a privacy-centric Browser called Ulaa. Zoho has long put privacy high on its agenda for users, and this new product now enables organisations and individuals to do the same. Zoho has thought carefully through what people want from a browser and has delivered options that appeal to a very wide variety of users, both personal and business. The browser has several different modes, can import your bookmarks from other browsers and uses the DuckDuckGo privacy search tool as default.
Many browsers collect user information about their users to “enhance the user experience”. This often means presenting ads that are, in theory, more aligned with their preferences and search results that now seem to include more advertisements than things searched for. Norton estimates that 85% of adults want to do more to protect their online privacy.
Research by YouGov noted that 66% of consumers worldwide feel tech companies have too much control over their personal data. That percentage is higher in the UK (75%) and the US (72%). Zoho sees an opportunity to carry out its mission of ensuring that every person should have control over their data, regardless of where they live.
Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s Chief Evangelist, commented, “Not many browsers on the market today are built to protect user privacy. They were created to protect respective company’s ad-based business models and surveillance companies that complement them, which runs counter to protecting users. This conflict between user’s preferences and browser’s business models means end users lose.
“With Ulaa, users don’t have to compromise their privacy to browse the web, which unfortunately has become a surveillance minefield. Zoho’s commitment to privacy and a privacy-centric business model allows us to offer a conflict-free, privacy-centric browser who value their own privacy and their kids privacy.”
Advantages of Ulaa
In addition to privacy customizations, anonymized user data and stats, geographical data isolation, end-to-end encryption, and privacy reports, Ulaa disables the API that allows websites to connect and communicate with devices connected to a computer’s network.
Users can also create five different usage modes dynamically. This means that without quitting the browser, a user can switch between different modes, which each have different settings. The six modes are
- Personal: The default mode, with its own settings and bookmarks
- Kids mode: This is accessed and cannot be exited without a password. It means that temporary users cannot switch to a different mode. Access for kids can be restricted with different settings. Want to share your PC? Switch to this mode to let someone else use it without accessing your bookmarks or history.
- Work mode: It is possible to set up work bookmarks, which may be different from personal ones
- Developer: Designed for professional web developers and testers, it includes suggested extensions to make things easier for advanced users.
- Incognito: This is a completely private mode which doesn’t retain any history or cookies as you travel between sites
- Open Season: Turns privacy settings off for such things as Ad trackers. Useful if there are certain sites that you may use that requires tracking turned on
Ulaa also has several features within itself that help with user efficiency. The bookmarks manager allows the import and export of bookmarks from different browsers. Users can also import history and search engine data from other browsers like Internet Explorer, Edge, Chrome and Firefox. Tabs can also be managed in the same way as bookmarks; thus, users can set up groups of tabs, organise, reuse or move between different windows, which is useful for project work.
To help with collaboration, there is a new tool called Annotator. This will allow users to screen capture a page or page section, add annotations to web pages and images, and then share these with other users. Having downloaded the browser, it is not immediately obvious how to access Annotator. Notebook requires a license from Zoho. As Ulaa is a Chromium browser, it immediately has access to many extensions available on the Chrome Web store, which can be downloaded and installed immediately.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean?
Ulaa is derived from a Tamil word meaning journey or voyage, and Zoho hopes many people will see the advantages of taking a spin with Ulaa. While the initial install hit some issues, notably opening up the local firewall for the browser to work, there is much to explore. Another advantage of using Ulaa is the current integrations with other Zoho applications and the potential efficiency gains these could add.
Charles Araujo, Principal Analyst at The Experience Report, notes, “There are two major trends impacting how people interact with the vast number of websites, applications, and tools available on the Internet. The first is that data privacy is becoming a prime consideration with increasingly concerned users with the improper use of their data.
“The second is the preference for consolidating around major platforms that provide access to the wide range of services we need and use on a daily basis. The gateway for both is the Internet browser, which is why Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all invested massive energy in the space — and also why many users have felt that they needed to sacrifice their desire for privacy for the platform’s ease of use.”
“Today, Zoho seeks to offer users the best of both worlds with Ulaa. While it provides the same sort of platform access as its much larger competitors — using the same Zoho account that provides access to its vast suite of productivity and business software — Ulaa is a privacy- and human-first browser that prioritizes the sanctity of a user’s data over its capture and monetization. Loaded with built-in features, Ulaa is a formidable new entry that should be of great interest to all privacy- and productivity-minded consumers and business users.”
Ulaa is free to download from here. There is also cross-device support available, with versions in iOS and Android available in beta to enable that.