Yandex is far from a household name on this side of the pond, but the Russian-based company is the Google of its home country. After building up a search engine empire and becoming an email provider, it is now looking to expand its reach further with an experimental web browser. Like Opera, Yandex Browser is built on top of the open source Chromium project (yes, another Google link), but this alpha makes most other browsers look heavy footed.
Essentially, Yandex has torn up the browser interface rulebook. Gone is the ugly gray toolbar that sits atop each and every web page in Chrome and Firefox. Its replacement is a slim, translucent bar, which is just tall enough to hold the page title, and the small icons representing your extensions.
Clicking on the page title reveals the search/address bar and draws a translucent shutter down over the entire window. Quick access to bookmarking, printing, and sharing the current page is made available, as is one of Yandex’s other main features, the Tableau. This grid of your favorite bookmarks — with each site represented by its favicon and a matching-color background — may be the first piece of Internet Explorer-inspired design of which I’ve ever actually approved.
New tab pages open with the Tableau taking centre stage, as well, but this view comes with a beautiful animated background (there are several to choose from). While you’re browsing, tabs line the bottom of the window and are colored to match the site they hold.
For those thinking of switching, the underlying setup of Yandex should be quite familiar to Google Chrome users, as both products start from the same code base. This means that bookmarks and extensions are easily imported. For an alpha, the new browser is also remarkably stable and swift. Whether design tweaks are enough for Yandex to drum up significant downloads seems doubtful, but as an alternative version of Chrome, it’s nice to use.
You can check out the Yandex Browser alpha for yourself here.