If you have a Mac, iPhone, or iPad and you’re looking for something new from your web browser, you should check out Orion. The new browser lets you run both Google Chrome extensions and Firefox add-ons, while claiming not to sacrifice your privacy. Orion is based on WebKit, the browser engine used by Safari on Mac and all the browsers on your iPhone.
Since Orion only recently entered public beta, it still has a few rough edges, but overall it appears to be a promising alternative you can try right now. Not every extension works on Orion, but the most popular ones, like uBlock Origin, Dark Reader, and SponsorBlock, work flawlessly.
To install the browser, you can go to Orion’s website. (Note that the iOS and iPadOS version of Orion needs to be installed via Apple’s TestFlight app because it’s still in beta.) The Mac version of Orion appears to be a lot more stable when compared with the iOS version, based on our testing.
How to install extensions on Orion
Orion doesn’t require you to create an account to install extensions. You can visit the official pages for Chrome extensions or Firefox add-ons, find any extension, and click Add to Orion to install it. These steps are the same for the mobile version.
Some extensions, like 1Password’s browser extension, don’t work with Orion because 1Password hasn’t yet authorised it yet. Still, you can use 1Password 8’s Universal Autofill feature to make it work. You can use uBlock Origin with Orion too, but the developers recommend that you first disable Orion’s own content blocker, as running the two simultaneously can cause conflicts and break websites.
How fast is Orion?
Using too many extensions at the same time seems to slow Orion down. If you use an older MacBook like I do, you’ll start to see the browser (and your entire computer) come to a crawl if you install too many extensions and open about 10-20 tabs. Of course, that problem applies to all browsers, it’s something to keep in mind.
Other useful Orion features
Installing extensions is great, but Orion also has a couple of other interesting features as well. One is the ability to move the list of open tabs to the left sidebar as a vertical view, making it easier to find the tab you’re looking for. This feature works on iPhone and Mac. If you’re reading an article and open a link in a new tab, the tab sidebar adds a nested tab. It’s a nice way to group tabs if you’re a tab hoarder.
Orion asks you to choose a default search engine when you fire up the browser, and it supports almost all search engines you might want to use. Its developers are also making a search engine of their own called Kagi, but the browser doesn’t force you to use any specific search engine by default.
If you’re using Orion on your MacBook, you can use its Low Power Mode to reduce battery drain and Orion will suspend inactive tabs in the browser. The Mac version also allows you to override copy-paste blocks implemented by some websites, particularly those of banks.
What’s Orion’s business model?
Whenever I see a new app, the first question that comes to mind is if it’s good for privacy. Orion, like all apps, claims to be secure and private. To back up their claim, Orion says it includes no telemetry and ships with a content blocker that stops browser fingerprinting apart from ads and tracking.
At the moment, the company says that its revenue depends on the community. Those who wish to support the browser can get the Orion+ subscription for $US5 ($7) per month, which will net them a new icon, early access to upcoming builds of the browser, and communication with the developers.
You should also be aware that Orion syncs your tabs, history, and settings across devices using iCloud sync. You can disable this if you want, but it’s enabled by default.