This review appears in the July issue of PC Advisor, available in all good newsagents now, while the program itself appears on the July cover DVD.
Here at PC Advisor, we tend to shy away from hyperbole – but Webaroo has got us quite excited. We reckon this product, which allows you to browse for content without being connected to the web, could completely change the way you use the internet. And best of all, it's free.
You start by downloading the application. You're then ready to start loading 'web packs' to your hard drive. These packs are a collection of pages about a topic – the World Cup, for example – selected for relevance, depth of coverage and, perhaps most importantly, size. Small is beautiful as far as Webaroo is concerned, because it means pages will take up less room on your hard disk.
At the time of writing there weren't many packs to choose from, but more are being created all the time. However, users aren't limited to pre-prepared content provided by Webaroo – you can add your own favourite sites.
As it happens, this is a fairly laborious process, since you can't simply ask Webaroo to add every site you have bookmarked. You have to go through your favourites one at a time.
At your service
The web packs and individual sites can be searched using a Google-style interface, but if it's time-sensitive content (news, for example) that you're interested in, don't worry. Webaroo updates itself every time you log on to the web. Once the updates have finished, you're able to disconnect and browse at your leisure.
You could be at the airport using a hotspot, but decide you'd prefer to be sitting in a café or bar. Simply update Webaroo while you're in range of the Wi-Fi network and, once it's done, you can wander off wherever you want. Imagine the looks you'll get from people on the aeroplane when you appear to be surfing the internet at 30,000 feet.
You can even put all of this on to a mobile device, provided it's running Windows Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition – support for Windows Mobile 5.0 is coming soon. And of course, you can fit an enormous amount of content on to portable media such as memory cards or USB keys.
How do you put the internet on a hard drive?
This is the question that the creators of Webaroo, Brad Husick, Rakesh Mathur and Beerud Sheth asked themselves back in 2004. After two years of brainstorming, tinkering and honing, they brought Webaroo to an unsuspecting world in April 2006. Strictly speaking, Webaroo isn't the whole internet – although sometime this year it aims to offer a comprehensive service that will allow searches on almost any topic. For the moment it's limited to preconfigured web packs and manually entered sites.
Husick was keen to emphasise that Webaroo is still a work in process. In the future he expects to see user-created web packs that can be uploaded to the central servers, assessed by others and rated to sort the wheat from the chaff.
As for the pricing, Husick explained: "It's a revolutionary concept – it's free." He added that sponsored links (at the time of writing not present on the service) would cover all the costs of running the Webaroo servers 24/7 and paying the 100 or so staff it employs. If Webaroo catches on – and we can see no good reason why it won't – websites will be queuing up to get their links on the service, and Husick et al will be raking it in.