A virtual browser is a special type of web browser. Web browsers allow internet users to surf the web but can expose user devices to web-based threats. Using a virtual browser, the browser runs in a virtual environment and is isolated from the local computer's operating system. It can be run in the cloud or on a virtual machine, depending on the needs and current network architecture.
Virtual browser use cases:
Preventing web-based malware infections
From a security standpoint, virtual browsers can act as an effective protective barrier from web-based malware. A remote browser solution provides even greater protection than a typical virtual browser that runs client-side, as malware cannot easily reach the endpoint machine to infect it.
Avoiding browser compatibility issues
Sometimes web-based applications will only run on an older version of a browser. As an example, some older applications were built to be run on outdated versions of Internet Explorer but this is not an ideal tool to use to access the web as it's no longer supported by Microsoft. Using a virtual browser can allow these applications to run when the required browser is not installed on the machine.
Testing with different browsers
Web developers can use virtual browsers to test their projects on different browser versions to check for issues and bugs that may be browser-specific. It also allows them to ensure the browser experience is consistent across browsers.
The terms "virtual browser" and "remote browser" may seem synonymous but that's not entirely true; a virtual browser can be physically located on the endpoint or on a remote machine and involves complex infrastructure implementations. Remote browsers are similar in concept but in place of a complex implementation, a remote virtual browser is run in a lightweight Linux container and no web code runs on the user's device. They are more cost effective than a virtual browser which requires certain hardware and server/client configurations and are more secure.