[guardian-dev] Orfox: first step towards Tor Browser on Android

Nathan of Guardian nathan at guardianproject.info
Sat Nov 23 23:18:30 EST 2013

Since Android 4.4 replaced the guts of the WebView component with
Chrome, and there is no apparent way to set a proxy anymore (even
through tricks like reflection), I decided to accelerate our move
towards an entirely new approach to privacy-enhanced browsing.

I discovered two projects that provide a full standalone browser
component that you can embed in an app.

ChromeView, based on Chromium, and very much a drop-in replacement for

GeckoView, Mozilla's own attempt to turn their browser engine into an
Android developer component:

I started with ChromeView, but got stuck just trying to get it to run.
Both approaches require some strange use of putting .so and .pak
binaries into asset folders and such. I don't entirely understand why yet.

I ended up getting the GeckoView project's GeckoBrowser sample running
easily, and very quickly, started hacking in all the privacy-enhancing
Firefox "about:config" preferences I know. All the SOCKS and HTTP
proxying stuff works well, and I have even gotten to a fairly decent
report back on ip-check.info in terms of cookies, referrals,
user-agents, etc.

You can find the repo here, if you want to build and try yourself. No
binaries posted yet:

I am aiming to do a release fairly quickly, at least for the Android 4.4
users who are currently left in a lurch.

Otherwise, if anyone wants to help build the best, most secure and
privacy-enhancing mobile browser in the world, what we need to do from
here is:

1) Start building the GeckoView library from source ourselves, and
figure out which components we really need. It is very bloated, and the
current APK is humongous.

2) Re-implement Orweb's various preferences into the new Orfox app, so
that users can easily choose to turn on/off javascript, clear cookies,
and so forth.

3) Connect with Mike Perry of Tor Project and start figuring out how the
Firefox patches / modifications he makes for Tor Browser can be applied
to the GeckoView builds.


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