Web Wrappers For Increased Privacy & Performance

in #technology10 months ago

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quick note: After I started working on this script I noticed NewPipe seemed to be broken. Turns out Google updated some stuff and NewPipe may need to be updated before it works right again. Keep an eye out on bug 7734 on GitHub for updates, but by the time you are actually reading or watching this it my already be fixed.

Last time I covered the basics of FOSS apps: where to get them, how they’re useful, and so fourth, with one exception being web wrappers; which I figured I do separately today.

So, what is a web wrapper? Simply put, a web wrapper is an app that uses the mobile website of a service within an app. Let’s use Facebook as an example, if you use the Facebook app it will take up hundreds of megabytes and will track you in a lot of ways. It can pull your location, contacts, data about your phone, images and other files on your phone, and plenty more. Compare this to using something like Frost, which is a web wrapper for Facebook: It’s 5.3 megabytes, and Facebook only gets your IP address and a few fake details about what browser Frost claims that you are using to load it. It also requires a lot less resources to run.

Despite this unbelievable difference in privacy and resources, there are not a lot of trade offs here. You can still access your feed and messages on an interface that you could mistake for the official app. And unlike loading the mobile page in your browser, you get to stay signed in, don’t need to deal with tabs or address bars, and still get notifications if you choose to do so. Additionally, since the web wrapper is separate from your browser there’s no need to worry about Facebook cookies causing privacy concerns on other pages that you visit. The only trade off is that once in a while a feature doesn’t function as intended, but otherwise you gain a lot without much of a trade off.

Now, each web wrapper is different, so today I thought I would go over a few that you may find useful. As with my last video on FOSS apps, there are plenty more web wrappers out there, but I can only review the ones that I have used and continue to use.

Frost for Facebook: Frost is a super simple app which I used as an example because I have found it so useful. If you swap it out for the standard Facebook app you can get all the benefits I mentioned with almost no lose in features.

NewPipe for YouTube: NewPipe is a super simple YouTube web wrapper. Unlike Frost, however, NewPipe does not allow you to sign into accounts. It instead allows you to add “subscriptions” locally and will pull all the latest videos from the accounts you “subscribed” to on the device. You can import and export your subscriptions within NewPipe, and you can also import your subscriptions strait from a Google Account. Otherwise, it works about the same, and allows you to view an ad free YouTube by streaming or downloading any video you wish.

The one caviate is that you cannot sync videos saved to playlists between devices. I remedy this by every day or so going to YouTube.com and adding videos into my subscription feed in one of two playlists (one for a general watchlist, one for audio based content) that I have set to unlisted which I can then load within the client.

SlimSocial for Twitter: This app functions very similar to Frost, but for Twitter instead of Facebook – though it is worth noting that there is a SlimSocial app for Facebook as well, but so far I have stuck to Frost for Facebook.

Fritter for Twitter: SlimSocial acts like Frost for Twitter, but Fritter acts like NewPipe for Twitter. Now, in YouTube (aside from commenting or creating your own channel) most of what you do is watch videos. In twitter, however, you are much more likely to interact with other users. While Fritter does not allow you to interact since you don’t sign into an account, making SlimSocial a lot more useful to most, if you are simply looking for a way to read content and receive notifications then this will work very well.

I know that seemed quick, but honestly I’ve never used a ton of apps dedicated to services either the official version or through web wrappers (more on that in a moment). I can assure you there’s plenty of web wrappers for services not listed here, I just can’t recommend any in particular ‘cause I haven't used them myself.

That said, there’s another trick our sleeves, and that’s mobile websites. Yeah, I know that sounds super obvious, but I can assure you that there’s still useful info on this half this piece of content. Normally, say you sign into Facebook on your normal web browser, you have two options: you can clear cookies forcing you to sign back in every time you want to access it, or you can stay signed in and then Facebook can track you through every website that has some sort of Facebook asset on it (such as a like button).

There’s a third option, however, and that’s having a dedicated means of opening the website aside from your main browser. While you won’t get notifications and the like as apposed to the official app or web wrappers, you still can avoid repeated sign-ons or being tracked via cookies. The better of the two options I’ll cover is that of an app called ‘Web Apps’. Web Apps allows you to create what effectively amounts to a browser profile specific to a certain website that won’t effect any other site. The great thing about this is it doesn’t require you install a specific app for the site, or even require a web wrapper has been developed for the site. Simply create a “Web App”, add the site, sign in once, and you should be all set. Once you’ve added the ones in that you want you can open Web Apps and then access the website like you. Super simple and super useful.

You second option, a little less complicated, but with a little less privacy, is just to have two browsers. You can sign into all your accounts on the first one, then have the second one set to automatically clear all cookies (or never save them to begin with). Now, say if you sign into a Google account and an Amazon account on the browser dedicated to accounts then of course the cookies will be shared within the same profile – something that’s avoided with web wrappers or the Web Apps app – but you can still do most of your browsing within your main second browser and only switch to the one with the accounts whenever you need to.

So that was a pretty quick overview, but I hope it helped. If you’ve never tried web wrappers, web apps, or utilizing more then one browser and like to have an app dedicated to a particular service then I would recommend checking these options out to see how the work. Regardless, thanks for watching or reading.


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