Russia’s Yandex has added a suite of new privacy centric features to an experimental browser it unveiled last year, as well as now switching the software from alpha to beta — and making it its default browser for international users.
The software giant took the wraps off the minimalist browser last November, dubbing it a “concept” and offering it alongside its extant Yandex.Browser. It’s now saying the concept will be the mainstream version it offers in international markets — although existing users of the older browser can carry on as is.
However in its largest market Russia, and select other regional markets, it will continue to maintain the concept browser as an experimental alternative — and its older browser remains in place as the primary offering there.
A Yandex spokesman said this is because in markets where it provides its core services (namely search and recommendations) it needs to know more about users, so switching to a private version completely would erode its quality of service. But, in international markets, it’s freer to experiment with offering private browsing as a lure to drive usage (and better compete with data-harvesting behemoth Google).
All Yandex’s browsers have a combined user-base of 22 million per month across all markets, according to the spokesman.
Additional privacy features were one of the most requested pieces of feedback on the alpha release, according to Yandex — especially from users in Germany, Canada and the U.S.
New privacy-focused functionality in the beta version of the minimalist browser includes not gathering user data, stats or browsing data by default, and offering a Stealth Mode extension in the browser to make it possible for the user to instantly switch on a block for analytics cookies and social network plugins.
The browser also prompts users to choose their own default search engine on launch — offering a choice of three, which varies depending on the user’s location.
More details about the new release can be found on the Yandex blog. AdGuard, which developed the Stealth Mode extension for the browser, has also published its source code on Github.
The beta version of the browser is available for Windows and OS X, in 15 languages, and can be downloaded at browser.yandex.com.