Among the various little curiosities that Nintendo Switch owners were picking apart when the system launched, one of the more interesting was the automatic message from Twitter when linking the social network to Nintendo's system. That message stated a 'Safari' device was accessing the service, but as we explained all was not as it seemed. What was really happening was that Twitter was detecting a variation of a WebKit browser engine, and we suspected it would be a version of NetFront that was seen on Wii U.
Well, it is a version of NetFront, though the company behind it (or their press representatives, to be precise) have forwarded some interesting details around it. The company behind it is ACCESS, with the full toolkit being called NetFront Browser NX (which is a coincidence and not related to the original Switch codename); the message states that this browser and two similar iterations "have been deployed in over 1.5 billion devices today, making it one of the best kept consumer electronics secrets".
So what is it? The PR excerpt below is a good starting point.
NetFront Browser NX is a WebKit-based browser component that features ultra-low levels of memory usage, enabled by ACCESS' unique technology that improves memory usage efficiency and ensures powerful rendering on a variety of devices and operating systems. The browser supports the latest Web technologies, including HTML5, CSS3, Gamepad API, WebP, WebSocket, HTTP Cache. In addition, using proprietary expansion spatial navigation technology, it enables smooth movement controlled by the arrow keys, maximises the usability of directional keypads on game controllers and more. NetFront Browser NX is deployed in a wide variety of devices including Nintendo game consoles, TVs, and in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVI) that are shipped globally.
The NetFront™ Browser series developed and provided by ACCESS is used in models of Nintendo 3DS™, Nintendo 3DS XL, Wii U™, Nintendo 2DS™, New Nintendo 3DS, and New Nintendo 3DS XL released since 2011. The Nintendo Switch is the seventh model to use the ACCESS NetFront Browser series.
...On Nintendo Switch, NetFront Browser NX is used as cooperation function with Nintendo Account, Nintendo eShop, upload of screen photos on SNS and more.
That final line is the key, and the wording of 'cooperation function' - at present the technology is driving the system's browser-based activities, of which there are actually quite a lot. Whenever you access or link a Nintendo Account, a social media account and so on the system is essentially loading a web page to process the action. The missing piece, of course, is a browser that we can actually use as consumers, which is an admittedly odd omission for a tablet-like device.
Of course, 3DS and Wii U utilised this tech for a browser app available to end user, but with Switch Nintendo brushed off enquiries around this with some fluff about producing 'an amazing dedicated video game platform', but the classic line about a lack of support 'at launch' suggests it could be on the cards for an update. Evidently, like with some other areas of the system, second tier features were put on the backburner in the initial drive to get the Switch equipped for launch.
In any case, Nintendo continues to use a familiar partner and technology for its system's browser-based needs. Here's hoping a consumer-level browser can be added soon, as a means of resolving a complaint some have with the system at launch.