Updated: August 31, 2011
The idea of a browser specifically targeting the population of a single country may sound like a bad marketing idea, until you do some quick math and realize that India has five times more people than the United States of America. Indeed, Epic is a Firefox-based browser designed for the Indian market, with lots of tweaks and new features added into the stock product.
Epic comes with an epic name [sic], although I believe any intention to be leet was accidental, a unique skin, as well as tons of web apps, which are sort of like Add-ons, but not quite. One of the most advertised features is the bundled anti-virus scanner, supposed to grant the browser extra security than none of the competition has. All in all, sounds good. The only question remaining is, if you're not an Indian, or perhaps you are, should you choose Epic as your default browser?
Epic is available for Windows only, although I did get it running via Wine without any problems. The installation is stock Mozilla, with the ability to import bookmarks and whatnot from other browsers. Once installed, the browser places a tri-color Indian flag-like icon onto your desktop.
The browsers comes with a very unique, non-native interface. It's personified with Indian colors and uses its own skin, theme and whatnot. The lack of integration is a little jarring on Windows 7, plus the colors steal away focus and create a crowded feeling.
The main window can be resized only by using the triangular drag handle in the right bottom corner, so you can't selectively change the width or height, which is annoying. If you right-click on the menu bar, the File menu will appear as deselected, even though it clearly shows. Marking the option on or off does nothing to change the layout.
The main menu has several extra options, too, including popup alerts for Gmail, Facebook and Twitter, Indic dropdown with multiple languages in all textboxes, and more. This is a nice addition if you like your browser tightly integrated with your overall Web use.
On the left side, there's the sidebar with icon shortcuts. These are all integrated apps for your browser, and there are some 1,500 of those available, including innocent things like mail and social network integration, but also music and video preview and playlists, translations and writing with focus on Indian official languages, and more.
Using either the official Firefox addons or Epic add-ons, spelled epic add-ons, lowercase e, will open another sidebar, allowing you to search, install or remove the add-ons. This second sidebar will conflict with the applications shortcuts, which must be closed first.
For instance, I installed the real-time Earth and Moon light phases app. The installation is instant and there's no need to restart the browser. And here it is, working:
Epic will offer to automatically play media content in the Sidebar or add media files to playlists. This is a nice thing, as it integrates well with popular services like Youtube.
Like I mentioned before, Epic advertises itself as the first browser with an integrated anti-virus protection. This is supposed to be NOD32, with a full ability to scan your local system and remove malware.
Now, looking about and reading through the help files, I could not find any reference to a built-in anti-virus program. Epic does offer scanning files using VirusTotal, but this is an online service and not an offline engine. I believe NOD32 online version was used in the past and replaced with the multi-scanner feature.
You can also examine a website's Web of Trust (WOT) scorecard, plus it is displayed in the address bar. However, the quality and the accuracy of the service is up to you to check and decide.
In a way, the emphasis on the anti-virus protection is interesting, but unnecessary. Moreover, the weird combination of an on-demand scanner with a relatively slow browser update cycle does not really add to users' security. I think the anti-virus thingie might have merit for the average user, but the updates policy negates it. It's a curious tradeoff, really. But it did leave me confused. If there's one part of the Epic browser that needs serious improvement, it's the security element.
Epic comes with several more interesting items. You can group collections of tabs and save them for later, although the function is not well laid out visually, as it sticks outside the browser window by about a thumb's width. New tabs open with a dramatic view of Taj Mahal, if I'm not mistaken, plus you get a list of your most visited sites.
There's also backup available, but you need a Google account for that:
At the moment, Epic is based on Firefox 3.6.10 family, which is a bit old. Checking for updates, there were none available. Moreover, the last update was quite a while ago, which could mean the project sees little new focus or has even been abandoned, given the typical turnaround speed for most modern browsers with self-update functionality.
There's also the question of a very India-oriented flavor, which might not suit everyone. While it could become a great local product, Epic probably stands little chance on the international market without some cosmetic change.
Epic browser is an interesting project. While you can argue about its necessity or functionality, you cannot deny its refreshing and unique approach. Not quite Mozilla, not quite Google, something else. A robust browser, with lots of extra polish and new features.
Now, some of the additions make a lot of sense. There's handsome potential in the web apps. However, other choices are a little less obvious, like the insistence on paranoid security that is undermined by slow updates. Moreover, the Indic nature of the browser could deter users merely seeking a pimped-up Firefox. Indeed, if you want your Firefox to be more than it is today, you can go to addons.mozilla.org and install pretty much anything you need or want. So is there a place for Epic?
I think Epic can deliver a decent package to the average user. However, it needs some rework before it can become an equal in the big league alongside its father and his nemeses. Faster updates, an international version, simpler visual layout, and fewer but higher quality web apps could make it a blast. At the moment, Epic gets 7/10. And that would be all, ladies and gentlemen.