Enterprise Browser Alternatives: Browser Extensions and Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)

Learn more about the enterprise browser and its alternatives, including browser extensions and remote browser isolation.

Learn more about the enterprise browser and its alternatives, including browser extensions and remote browser isolation.

Enterprise Browser Alternatives: Browser Extensions and RBI

While the browser is the most commonly used enterprise application today, it was never built with the needs of large businesses and organizations in mind.  As new SaaS- and remote-first work patterns evolved, and the demand for a browser that had enterprise-grade security and management features grew, new solutions emerged to meet these needs. These solutions took three different approaches to the problem: browser extensions, remote browser isolation (RBI), and the enterprise browser. 

The first two are refinements or enhancements to the common consumer browser. The latter approach,the enterprise browser, takes a clean slate approach to the challenge. It incorporates centralized management tools, secure access controls, productivity features, and device ubiquity into its core design. The user experience is almost indistinguishable from that of a consumer browser, and in fact, is speedier, since it is optimized for productivity. The enterprise browser has many advantages over its competitors, and new use cases are constantly being uncovered and capitalized upon. 

This article explores the alternatives to the modern enterprise browser, which include browser extensions and remote browser isolation (RBI). We’ll examine the compromises they make in their quest to serve the needs of a modern enterprise workforce and dive into reasons why the enterprise browser remains work’s natural next step. 

Alternative #1: Browser Extensions

A number of vendors offer browser extensions that can be deployed to a consumer browser to add enterprise security and management capabilities. While they are commonly marketed as enterprise browsers, there are major distinctions between a mere browser extension that offers enterprise-like features, and a full-fledged enterprise browser that was designed from the ground up to meet the exacting demands of enterprise use. 

What Browser Extensions Offer

Browser extensions provide their customers with a few notable positives. They are straightforward to deploy and integrate into the end users’ existing browsers. They are relatively low cost, since they don’t require a lot of development effort to create and expensive infrastructure to maintain. For the end user, the experience of using the browser is the same, as the browser itself has not fundamentally changed.

Limitations of Browser Extensions

Browser extensions are limited in what they can do because they are constrained by the extension framework, as defined by consumer browsers like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. For example, an extension can’t modify core browser storage to protect cookies, cache, or saved passwords. An additional shortcoming of extensions is the risk that their features and functionality may be negatively impacted by changes to the frameworks, such as Chrome’s deprecation of Manifest V2.  

Another inherent weakness of extensions is that they need to be deployed and managed through a separate device management platform, like a mobile device management (MDM) or unified endpoint management (UEM) tool. Without MDM/UEM, there’s no way to ensure that users add the extension to their browser. For this reason, they are generally not recommended for unmanaged deployments such as in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD), third-party contractor, or business process outsourcing (BPO) scenario.    

While their primary goal is to help secure the browser, extensions only offer a limited number of security protection features. They cannot protect against local attack vectors like malware on a device that hijacks cookies, cache, keystrokes, or passwords. Extensions are also limited in their ability to interact with the underlying operating system (OS), which means they are unable to provide full zero-trust security with deep device and network inspection. Browser extensions also cannot support mobile devices, so an environment with a mix of desktop and mobile devices will require multiple solutions, which creates complexity and adds cost.

Alternative #2: Remote Browser Isolation

Remote browser isolation (RBI) is exclusively focused on providing security features to browsers, and as the name suggests, it works by hosting a browser environment on a remote host where web pages are rendered and then streamed back to the user as a video. 

What Remote Browser Isolation Offers

RBI lives up to its moniker by providing full isolation between browser-related activities and the user’s computer. Since only a video stream of the webpage is delivered to the user’s computer, the actual web content and the endpoint device are fully isolated from each other. This means that any malware or malicious web content never has a chance to make it to the endpoint device, and remains contained in the remote environment. Because the local endpoint is protected, RBI can be very useful in use cases such as threat research, where malware encounters are expected. 

Limitations of Remote Browser Isolation

The tradeoff with RBI is a compromised user experience due to the latency that accompanies the extra layer of remote browser rendering. Rendering issues and web application compatibility issues are also more common. To counteract these issues, many RBI solutions selectively choose only some web destinations to send to the remote environment. The choices are based on web classification and risk scoring. The problem with this approach is that it hinges on that classification; any time malicious content is falsely classified as safe, it defeats the purpose of RBI. Once this error is made, it allows the malicious content to bypass RBI for all users within the environment, expanding the potential attack surface significantly.

In addition to the user experience deficits, RBI’s underlying approach incurs substantial infrastructure and bandwidth costs to host and stream the remote browser environment, which results in a poor return on investment for its adopters. RBI is well suited for niche use cases like threat research, but it rarely makes sense for broad deployment. 

Why Modern Enterprise Browsers Best the Alternatives

The number one reason enterprise browsers are better than the alternatives is that they were conceived and designed to fulfill the myriad demands of enterprise organizations, instead of merely focusing on a narrow use case. Island, the Enterprise Browser, provides organizations with the core requirements everyone in the organization needs – from CIOs to CISOs, IT, lines of business, users, and everyone in between. Island provides:

Efficiency and Cost Savings

By using Island, companies no longer need some of the security tools, endpoint agents, and IT solutions that they previously used to secure and enable their business, as they are all embedded within the browser. This lowers the cost and complexity associated with licensing, deploying, maintaining, and supporting the infrastructure required to support them. 

Application Provisioning

With Island, users can access all the applications they’re entitled to, whether software-as-a-service (SaaS), web applications, or even non-web applications, via Secure Shell (SSH) or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Through application virtualization platforms, users can connect to traditional “thick” applications without requiring a desktop installation. This enables new apps to be introduced easily — all new users have to do is log in and get to work.

Analytics and Data

Island provides analytics on application usage, performance, and workflow insights. These can be used to optimize application spending, identify and remediate performance issues, and inform IT strategy to maximize business value. Analytics across every application interaction are available on each org's Island admin console, unlike alternative solutions that require application-side integrations or additional agents on the endpoint.

Remote Access

Island enables remote access for a hybrid workforce and supports employees outside the corporate office, contractors, and vendors who may need access to the company’s data and systems. Organizations can use Island to reduce the need for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or traditional VPN, and to support personal devices as part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative.

Data Protection

Island features dynamic data protections, replacing the “blunt instrument” approaches of legacy data protection solutions. This feature enables you to build policies that prevent data leakage without disrupting organizational workflows. Island’s data loss prevention (DLP) controls protect sensitive data from being improperly downloaded or uploaded before it leaves or enters the browser. Administrators can implement custom policies that govern the exact context within which copy/paste, screenshots, printing, or saving can be executed. This allows data to move freely between work applications while ensuring it doesn’t go where it shouldn’t. 

Safe Browsing

Powerful security tools that protect browser activity from web-borne threats are built into Island. Malware is detected and blocked so they can’t reach the endpoint, while phishing attacks are stopped before credential compromise occurs. Access to unsafe or inappropriate sites is blocked, key browser components are isolated, and local browser data stores are protected to neutralize sophisticated attack vectors. Island also helps security teams respond to incidents and resolve investigations quickly by providing robust event data for browser activities. 

Zero Trust Security

Through its integration with identity providers (IdP), Island can be used to implement a zero-trust security framework across a wide range of deployment scenarios. User identity is verified with multi-factor authentication, device posture is checked to verify the device meets security standards, and network and geolocation are examined to see where the request is coming from. Each of these elements is evaluated with every access request, making it easy to implement and enforce robust zero-trust security policies across all browser activity.

Password Protections

Island has several key advantages over consumer browsers when it comes to password protection, management, and governance. It includes its own enterprise-optimized password manager and protects its users from phishing attacks, password exfiltration, or password interception through local malware like keyloggers. It can also be used to implement privileged access management (PAM) workflows where users can authenticate with credentials assigned to them without ever needing to see the password. This is handy when several employees need access to a shared company account or to protect particularly sensitive applications.


Island is designed with workplace optimizations at its core. It has built-in ad blocking to remove distractions and speed up browsing, and integrates tools that simplify common workflows. A smart clipboard manager, an AI assistant, a password manager, and a PDF editor are all built into Island. It also integrates with enterprise cloud storage to streamline downloads and uploads. All of this is included natively in Island, and deployed and configured by the IT team, without the hassle of managing a collection of browser extensions or adding external productivity tools.


Island delivers a hefty productivity boost by supporting powerful workflow automations. Smart automations speed up repetitive tasks, such as customer success teams responding to client requests or managing ticketing systems. Since these automations are native to the enterprise browser, they can be applied anywhere — regardless of whether the underlying application supports them.

Island, the Enterprise Browser, offers broader and deeper enterprise features than the alternatives we’ve explored. See how these features are helping us to reshape the modern workplace.