Actually testing your website, clicking on links and testing interactions, is only possible by loading a “real” browser either on a bank of test machines or virtual machines. There have been some services out there that provide access to these browsers, for a fee. A new service named Browserling brings a limited service to users for free.
Browserling is a new web service built upon the StackVM framework which allows virtual instances of operations systems to run right in your browser. Within this framework, they allow users to launch a number of browsers to test out their websites right in your browser. As of this writing they have support for Internet Explorer 5.5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, Firefox 3.5, Chrome 7, Opera 10.6 and Safari 5.0.
Launching a test browser instance is simple. Type in the URL, select the browser you wish to launch, and hit “Go”
After a moment your website will launch in your browser:
Right now, you can test out as many sites as you want and it is free. There is a 1 minute and 30 seconds limit that you can use without registering, and if you do register you get 5 minute sessions (for free). You can use it more than once – but your session will start ‘fresh.’ They are working on paid plans that will extend this time and shorten your wait time, but pricing has not yet been announced.
When your website is in your browser it is actually what is showing up on the remote screen. You have access to all of the browser options like you would with a VM – giving you the choice of disabling features or interacting with the browser much more than you would in a simple screenshot.
If there are too many users on the service, you might be queued to use the next instance. Their “holding page” has awesome drawings and is animated to boot:
At the core of Browserling is an up and coming technology from the guys at StackVM. Basically, they are aiming to be able to create VMs on-demand and bring them right into your browser. This allows them to create services such as Browserling, making it easy for anyone to access this technology without having to worry about IP addresses or VNC clients.
The service works mainly as described. However, since each browser is actually running in an Amazon Cloud Computing instance, there is a good possibility that the service may become overloaded if too many people are using it. In that case, you can check out this video which demonstrates the service:
Considering that the service was just released to the public, and is in early beta, it is very promising technology. I did come across some issues where it would stop loading or I would see other websites pop up – these are signs of the early beta and the developers are working to fix all of the issues that have been revealed during this early stage. One thing I did notice was that occasionally past-user’s sites ended up in my windows – so do not post anything “confidential” such as sites you wish to keep private or usernames, passwords, or other personally identifiable information.
I spoke with James Halliday, who is one of the creators of Browserling along with Peteris Krumins, about Browserling and StackVM. They are creating technologies that allow you to display and interact with desktops in your browser. James said that they “see a lot of promise in the intersection between webapps and server virtualization”, so I expect to see a lot of neat products coming out of this technology in the coming months.
Check out Browserling and tell us what you think!