Sidekick has been leading its history since November 2020 and during its development managed to attract the attention of not only 70 thousand users (according to the data presented on the product website), but also investors who saw the prospects of the project and invested two million US dollars in it. The browser itself has Russian roots and is being developed under the guidance of MIPT graduate Dmitry Pushkarev, who now lives in the United States and oversees the work of a distributed team of programmers from 9 countries around the world, creating a solution with an eye on effective interaction with web applications and online services, and not with ordinary sites. This is the main idea and philosophy of the Sidekick browser, available for Windows, macOS and Linux platforms.
Under the “hood” Sidekick is the code base of the Chromium project, the open developments of which are now used by everyone and sundry. As a result, the browser is in many ways similar to “colleagues in the shop”, but there is one significant difference: its central element is not the address bar, but the web application panel located on the left. A similar interface element is present in Opera, Vivaldi, Yandex.Browser, Edge and other web browsers, but in Sidekick it has been further developed and, in fact, plays the role of a full-fledged task manager.
Everything is tied to the sidebar in Sidekick – from navigating through web applications and viewing notifications to quickly searching through the workspaces of specific services and flexible settings for the latter. At the same time, for clarity, active programs are “highlighted” with dots, and the location of the signs can be changed at your discretion – everything is like in modern operating systems.
Sidekick integrates out of the box with many popular services such as Gmail, Telegram, WhatsApp, Skype, Notion, Slack, Figma, Jira, Gitlab, and hundreds of others – any of them can be pinned to the sidebar. Attaching to the panel and a regular site is also allowed.
A lot of interesting things are hidden in the settings of web applications. They can control the activity of launched services, the parameters of notifications shown to the user (including sound ones) and enable the so-called Split View multitasking mode, in which the screen is automatically divided into two adjacent areas and it becomes possible to interact with two applications simultaneously. The function is not original, but useful.
Another “feature” of Sidekick is support for user sessions with different accounts, with which you can create isolated workspaces for different accounts. This is convenient, for example, when using the browser for personal and work purposes and quickly switching between mail, calendar and other services with different roles.
For a competent organization of the working environment, Sidekick also provides the Sessions tool (“Sessions”), which allows you to create separate sets of tabs for certain tasks and switch between them with one click. A similar solution called “Spaces” is implemented in the Opera browser, so here Sidekick is not ahead of the rest.
Enough in Sidekick and other subtle, but curious features. One of them is a “pass-through” search through the contents of all open tabs and web applications running in the sidebar. The thing, no doubt, is useful, especially when you have to interact with a large number of web resources and the data stored in them.
A special pride of Sidekick developers is an intelligent browser performance optimization system that uses the combination of duplicate page windows into one process and unloading inactive tabs from the computer’s RAM in order to save computing resources. Switching unused tabs to sleep occurs automatically after the time specified in the settings (from 10 to 60 minutes of inactivity), while the amount of saved memory is displayed on the Sidekick main page. You can add individual sites and web applications to exceptions. In fairness, we note that a similar mechanism for working with inactive tabs has existed in Edge for a long time and has proven itself well. It’s nice to know that really good ideas eventually find application in other alternative Internet browsers.
To ensure the user’s confidentiality and privacy when working on the global Web, Sidekick has a built-in blocker for advertising banners, trackers, and scripts that allow you to identify the user. It has practically no settings as such – only an “on / off” slider and a filter with a “white” list of trusted URL resources. The blocker works rather mediocrely, and you should not rely entirely on it. For comprehensive protection against ads, monitoring systems and behavioral analyzers, it would be logical to install some time-tested extension in the browser, since such an opportunity is provided.
The VPN client bundled with the browser deserves special mention. True, you can use it only for strictly defined sites – Twitter, LinkedIn, Canva, WhatsApp and a number of others. The list is limited, and it is not possible to independently add new resources to it.
An important point is browser performance. Sidekick developers without a shadow of embarrassment assure that their product is three (!) times faster than Chrome. Alas, this statement is of a formal nature and does not correspond to reality. Proof of this is our assessment of the speed characteristics of the current versions of Sidekick 104, Chrome 106, Edge 106, Opera 92, Firefox 97 and Yandex Browser web browsers with the 22.xxx index in the build number.
As you can see, Sidekick has become an outsider in almost all evaluation disciplines and, in terms of performance, is inferior to other browsers built on the Chromium code base: Chrome, Edge, Opera and Yandex Browser. There is no vaunted threefold superiority over Chrome in terms of speed. But it is this indicator that is the key for the product, which is positioned as an ideal tool for effective work with web services.
Well, in conclusion, it is worth focusing on another important aspect – the Sidekick distribution model, which implies a subscription for access to all browser functions. The Pro version costs $8 per month, and the ProTeam edition with teamwork features is priced on a case-by-case basis. There is a free version of the product, but if you use it after the 30-day trial period has expired, you will have to put up with a number of restrictions. I remember that at the dawn of the browser market, the Norwegian Opera Software also first distributed its web browser on commercial terms, but subsequently abandoned this idea due to the huge number of free alternatives. Sidekick developers decided to ignore the experience of their colleagues. Well, they see better.
Sidekick captivates with its versatility, integration with online services and the thoughtfulness of many little things, which together make working with network resources a little, but more comfortable. However, in technical terms, this product is nothing more than a hodgepodge of components available in other browsers and at the same time distributed completely free of charge. Is it worth the candle in the case of Sidekick, and even more so the financial expenses, is an open question.
And the last. To date, Sidekick is perhaps the only browser with a built-in referral system that operates on the principle of “bring 5 friends and get a month of subscription to the Pro version for free.” In our opinion, such a distribution scheme does not color a good, in general, product and certainly does not add credibility to it.
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