Why is there no browser on Switch? (Three key reasons)

Why shouldn’t you be able to read this article on your Nintendo Switch?

Why is there no browser on Switch?

Web browsers are a security risk for games consoles, it can take a lot of power and memory to run them, and a Switch browser wouldn’t provide Nintendo with associated revenue.

In this article, the three reasons listed above for the Switch’s lack of an internet browser are explored in more depth. The Switch’s ‘hidden’ browser is also discussed, as are reasons why users might want a browser on Switch in the first place.

Wait, I’ve heard there IS a browser on Switch?

Screenshot of Nintendo website FAQ section confirming that the Switch does not have an internet browser
This Q&A from Nintendo’s official site doesn’t tell the whole story.

OK, yes. There is a web browser on the Nintendo Switch. 

However, it was never intended for general use. Rather, it is designed to assist users in connecting to WiFi networks where additional authentication is required.

Web developer Alvaro Trigo has created a step-by-step guide for accessing this ‘hidden’ functionality, but appendages his detailed post by stating that the Switch browser is not worth using and is ‘pointless and annoying’ to set up.

The numerous YouTube guides on accessing this browser further confirm what a pain it is to access, for example: 

So, for all practical purposes, it’s fair to say that the Switch doesn’t have a web browser.

The browser-less Switch: Three key reasons

Let’s explore three main reasons for the Switch’s missing browser in more depth.

It’s a security risk

Arguably the most important justification for Nintendo omitting an internet browser from the Switch is that browser applications have, on multiple occasions, been proven to pose serious security risks to game consoles.

(Note: I’m talking mostly about risks to Nintendo here, rather than to the user – although you always run the risk of giving your Switch the blue screen of death or worse by trying exploits like the ones discussed below.)

Most obvious among these risks is the chance that someone clever will work out a way to exploit the web browser to make it possible to install custom software on the Switch. 

The 3DS, Wii, and Wii U were all successfully hacked via their respective web browsers and it didn’t take long after the Switch launched for reports of successful attempts on Nintendo’s latest console (via the hidden browser discussed above) to emerge. 

Modern browsers are big beasts

Modern web browsers are notoriously resource-sapping, memory-hungry applications. 

That’s important because the Switch is not a particularly powerful device. In fact, some smartphones now outgun the Nintendo Switch in terms of power

It’s difficult to believe that any browser on the Switch would perform at (or even close to) a standard comparable to browser applications on other better-optimized devices.

I’ve yet to use a browser on a video game console that wasn’t clunky, slow, and awkward, and, given its power and memory limitations, my expectations would be at rock bottom for any browser on the Nintendo Switch.

It doesn’t make business sense

For a number of reasons, adding a full web browser to the Nintendo Switch doesn’t make business sense -besides, it has sold incredibly well without one.

First of all, the application itself would require constant maintenance and updating – not only to protect it from security threats (that might reduce the lifespan of your Switch) but also to keep up with the features and performance that users expect when browsing the web on other devices.

Custom image made from photo of Nintendo Switch displaying the eShop with procasual gaming logo overlayed
Nintendo would rather users didn’t stray too far from the eShop.

Second, there isn’t much – if any – associated revenue that a web browser could generate for Nintendo to make it financially viable in and of itself. The eShop already exists on the device and has a huge selection of the best indie games and AAA releases. It wouldn’t make much sense for Nintendo to push users too far away from the end of that sales funnel.

As is made clear by Nintendo’s insistence that Switch game prices should be sold at premium prices, selling products (software or hardware) at a loss just isn’t really part of the modus operandi.

Why would you want a browser on Switch?

So you’re tired of playing Breath of the Wild or your expensive Switch port of Skyrim and you want to browse the internet for a bit instead. Are there any good reasons to want to do that on the Switch rather than, say, any of the other widely available devices that have internet browsers?

There are several justifications that I’ve heard for Nintendo downing tools on all the cool video game projects they are invariably working on and shifting resources over to build an internet browser for the Switch. 

Most of them don’t make a huge amount of sense to me, so I can’t imagine they make much sense to the top dogs at Nintendo either. 

Probably the most commonly cited reason for wanting a browser on the Switch is to access streaming platforms that aren’t natively available (i.e., something other than Hulu, Crunchyroll, YouTube, Twitch (if you fancy doing a bit of backseating…), Funimation, and Pokémon TV). 

Another is so that the Switch console could be used to access other types of digital media, such as ebooks, comics, and PDFs.

Some defiant Reddit users in this thread are adamant that this would even help to bridge the technology gap in developing countries (having invented a curious demographic that would prioritize the purchase of a games console over a smartphone to justify this argument).

Screenshot of xbox home screen with interenet explorer app tile plus a screenshot in device frame of the Nintendo 3DS browser
There can’t be that many gamers who have genuinely positive things to say about console web browsers.

An even weaker position, in my opinion, is that the Switch should have a browser ‘because every other internet-enabled device has one’ and that previous Nintendo consoles had browsers. Just because we can converge technologies doesn’t mean we should.

Finally, access to a browser might make it possible/easier to download modded content like character customizations. Not a priority for the majority.

In summary, I have yet to come across a truly compelling use case for an internet browser on the Switch that isn’t better solved using devices like smartphones and tablets that are already ubiquitous in markets where the Switch is popular.

The Switch is already fantastic for so many reasons – including its Game of the Year-worthy exclusives and innovative (if expensive) Joy-Con controllers. A web browser wouldn’t exactly drive Switch sales through the roof. 

Summary – Why is there no browser on Switch?

A web browser would pose a significant security risk to the Nintendo Switch, it would be difficult to run given that the Switch is underpowered compared to modern tablets and smartphones, and it just doesn’t make business sense for Nintendo.

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