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Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Features

5 things you need to know about the Raspberry Pi’s Epiphany web browser

5 things you need to know about the Raspberry Pi’s Epiphany web browser

Epiphany is a new web browser for the Raspberry Pi. It’s been modified to be faster, smoother and more powerful than the previous web browser, Midori, meaning it possible to watch 720p YouTube videos and browse more Javascript-heavy websites like RaspberryPi.org and RasPi.Today.

Here’s a quick run-down of the details…

Epiphany is the new default browser

Up until its release on Monday 1st September the default browser for Raspberry Pi was Midori.

Epiphany (now also known by it’s confusing GNOME Foundation name, Web) changes that and all future releases of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s official Raspberry Pi operating system, Raspbian, will have it installed by default. The browser is a heavily modified version of an already popular Linux application, has been in development for around eight months.

It’s easy to install

Until the next version of Raspbian is released you can update your Raspberry Pi and install it in three easy steps. Either on the command line or using the LXTerminal, simply type the following three commands one after the other:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

sudo apt-get install epiphany-browser

Once that’s complete you’ll find it listed alongside all your other Internet-related applications in the Internet section of the application launcher.

Did we mention that this might take quite a long time?!

It’s faster and smoother

Thanks to all the hard work of the development team, Epiphany starts three-times faster than Midori. You’ll also find that it uses quite a few of the tricks used in mobile web browsers to be responsive while the page is loading too. You’ll find scrolling is also much smoother and it will run bigger and ‘heavier’ websites than Midori could manage.

This includes sites that use JavaScript, HTML 5 and feature a lot of images and video content served from services like YouTube and Vimeo. This is thanks to things like hardware-accelerated video decoding made possible by the Raspberry Pi’s graphics processing unit (GPU). It takes the pressure off the CPU, which also helps keep your Pi more responsive too.

Not only does this mean you can now browse the RaspberryPi.org website on your Raspberry Pi in relative comfort (hurrah!), but you can also watch YouTube and Vimeo videos in glorious high definition too (well, 720p anyway!).

Epiphany still isn’t perfect

While it’s a country mile ahead of the other browsers in Raspbian, you’re still not going to get the same kind of performance you’d expect from a cutting edge tablet or laptop computer. Epiphany will continue to be updated and optimised, but it will never compare or compete on equal terms with modern mobile hardware. Rest assured that the Raspberry Pi Foundation plan to continue improving the user experience for this and other aspects of the the Raspberry Pi well into the future, though…

It’s part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s drive to improve software (and they’re just getting started!)

InternetBetween now and the Raspberry Pi 2′s release sometime in 2017, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is committed to making the very best software for their credit card-sized PC. The great thing about Linux is that as software matures it tends to gets faster (compared to Windows, where it tends to get slower!). Never has this been more true than with the software on the Raspberry Pi.

Epiphany is just the beginning and we can expect a whole host of new and exciting applications (like the recently released Sonic Pi 2) and updates to appear in the coming months.

We spoke to one of the team responsible for optimising Epiphany for the Raspberry Pi a while ago.

Daniel Stone and the team at Collabora are also working on Wayland, a new display server that will revolutionise the Raspberry Pi’s user experience and could change the landscape for everything from the smallest devices right up to 4GHz workstations (and everything in between).

With the vast majority of the work for Epiphany done, let’s hope we start to see more progress with Wayland on the Raspberry Pi so we can enjoy the same kinds of speed and performance boosts in other areas of the user experience too…