Is the Puffin browser a privacy-first tool?

Anton P. | September 23, 2021

The Puffin browser is a tool showcasing unique architecture and promising faster web browsing. Its primary appeal is its goal to be a resource-saving browser. What does this mean? Well, Puffin loads content in the cloud, taking most of the burden required to run online content. Thus, barely anything gets downloaded to your device, which could be beneficial for resource-limited users. However, while the Puffin browser seemed like a star in the making, even its loyal users emphasize certain shortcomings. Let’s review why Puffin could be your hero and why it might fall short.

What is the Puffin browser?

The Puffin browser is a web browser designed to use encrypted cloud servers to load and render content. It has sparked curiosity among netizens ever since its release in 2010. CloudMosa, a US-based mobile technology company, is the creator of this tool. The unique content processing is one of the reasons why Puffin is an unusual browser to try.

Currently, Puffin is available for both desktop and mobile devices. Thus, you can try it on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. The tool is also compatible with Android TV and Raspberry Pi. However, the Puffin browser is not free all the way. You can use it for free, but paid subscriptions are an option for netizens to evade data caps and ads.

The three priorities for Puffin are speed, security, and privacy. Thus, the procedures under the hood support these aims. Primarily, it equips encrypted cloud servers for delivering the web content you request. This feature tries to solve issues that have existed in the browser industry for a long time.

As you might know, many browsers are very CPU-hungry, meaning that they gobble up a lot of computing power. Popular browsers address this performance problem, like Google Chrome testing its power-saving options.

With the Puffin browser, the solution is to deal with content rendering, parsing, and loading outside the local device. If this sounds confusing, let’s examine Puffin’s performance. In some cases, it might be more lightweight than other candidates on the market.

How does Puffin work?

First of all, let’s consider how browsing typically works.

  • Say you use Google Chrome as your primary tool. You type a URL in the search bar, and the browser connects to that website’s server. Chrome then asks the server for the resources necessary to load the site.
  • Usually, browsers retrieve CSS, JavaScript, and HTML files to parse and present the page correctly.
  • In short, the device you use is responsible for supplying the necessary resources (CPU). Depending on this power, some web pages might take longer to load, especially if a site is a resource hog.
  • Your internet connection also determines how fast browsers retrieve all of the resources for parsing and rendering. Thus, it influences the downloading rate of the components.
  • Additionally, round-trip time influences the time you spend waiting for websites to load. This concept refers to the time it takes for the server to respond and transfer resources.

The Puffin browser takes this principle and makes some smart decisions to optimize it. Instead of allowing the rendering, parsing, and loading to happen on users’ devices, Puffin shifts these activities elsewhere.

Where? This workload gets assigned to cloud servers, meaning that your device simply receives the processed information. Thus, the encrypted cloud servers minimize the CPU usage on the client-side.

Why do users go for the Puffin browser?

First and foremost, Puffin polishes its architecture and operation to offer blazing speeds. Hence, this browser could be the solution to heavily CPU-draining browsing. For many, faster speeds when perusing online are incredible assets. Thus, it is likely that the majority of those 150 million users opt for Puffin for its wickedly quick operation.

Furthermore, the browsing style via the Puffin browser might be safer. Typically, browsers try to block potentially harmful content via URL filtering or content inspection. Puffin takes a different approach. It isolates and diffuses threats by running them in a cloud sandbox on remote servers.

What are some drawbacks of Puffin?

The Puffin browser is not without faults, however. Particular reasons might make users skip Puffin or drop it soon after trying it out.

Privacy concerns and data collection

The main worry actually comes from its distinctive operation. As mentioned above, remote Puffin servers deal with all the requests you make. Thus, the headache comes from the fact that the owners can, theoretically, see and read all of your information.

However, the representatives of Puffin claim that all data gets encrypted, preventing this privacy invasion.

According to Puffin’s privacy policy, the company stores the following information:

  • Cached images and files.
  • Cloud storage authorization.
  • Users’ browsing history.
  • Passwords.
  • Information entered in forms.
  • Location information.

As a result, the Puffin browser is not the kindest when compared to other products marketed as privacy-oriented. For instance, Brave is an alternative browser that does not record its users’ activities. From that sense, Puffin has a few more lessons to learn.

Ads and daily usage-time limit

If you use the Puffin browser’s free version, you are bound to see an unremovable ad banner at the bottom of the page. Furthermore, you will see video ads several times in an hour.

This monetization strategy is nothing necessarily new as many businesses rely on ads. However, there are free alternatives that will do more at no cost. Thus, it is up to you whether you want to pay for a browser subscription to avoid ads.

Another downside is that free users will experience a usage-time limit. The exact limit varies based on different geolocations. However, the chances are that you will be able to use the Puffin browser for several hours a day. If you need more time, your only option is to choose a subscription plan.

Your IP address

The Puffin browser operates servers in the USA and Singapore. When you use it, your IP address will also change to the one belonging to these servers. We can see the correlation between this strategy and a VPN.

However, the owners describe the IP address masking as a side effect. Also, while some websites will regard you as a netizen from the USA, others will still see your actual location.

After all, the Puffin browser does reveal your IP address to certain websites via X-Forwarded-For. Thus, the IP address change is not stable. Moreover, some services can regard Puffin traffic as one traversing through proxy.

A VPN protects netizens’ IP addresses from being revealed online. For instance, Atlas VPN equips many components to defend against any leaks of location-related information. As for Puffin, your IP address remains visible under certain circumstances.

Is Puffin blocked in certain countries?

The Puffin browser has complicated relationships with countries exercising strict control over the internet. According to Puffin, its services have been blocked in China, Iran, Qatar, and Egypt.

Restrictive governments might regard any type of traffic/identity obfuscation as unacceptable. And since Puffin does change IP addresses (although not consistently) and reroutes traffic, countries show no favoritism towards it.

Furthermore, Internet Service Providers in the UK block Puffin IP addresses due to age restrictions. It might relate to minors attempting to access adult-only content. However, you can evade this block by contacting your ISP and verifying your age.

Should you go for the Puffin browser?

If it’s privacy you seek, the Puffin browser might not offer the most advanced, privacy-oriented setup. Its strengths lie in speed and protection against malicious websites. After all, it collects such details as your browsing history, which is not something other products do. Also, Puffin won’t hide your IP address consistently, nor be interruption-free.

If you wish to have more privacy and security online, we suggest pairing Brave or Mozilla Firefox with a VPN. This combination will render the best results.

Atlas VPN reroutes your traffic through remote servers, but we do not retain any information about your activities. We take pride in being a no-log VPN, meaning we collect only the data necessary to provide our services. For instance, we do need your billing information to process your purchase.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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