I did hours of research on numerous children's web browsers. I read some so-so reviews on Buddy Browser but I wanted to be fair and give it a try. The down side to "giving it a try" was that there is no free trail period to check it out. As a parent, internet safety is very important to me so I figured $29.95 wasn't that much to pay for piece of mind. So with that said, I purchased Buddy Browser. Mainly I thought if I didn't like it, I could always take advantage of the "5 days full money back guarantee" that's touted on it's website.
Now, the site is full of awards and famous news station recommendations but the first thing I really noticed was how "clunky" the site was once you tried to create an account. After about 15 minutes are 5 tries I finally got the site to direct me to payment screen (which is handled by a 3rd party company, more on that later). After paying and installing it on my computer, I loaded it up and wanted to see how it works before handing it over to my children. The overall layout of the program is not that bad and it looks visually appealing. It has decent parental controls (when everything loads correctly) and was not too hard to navigate. The deal breaker for me was the search engine. It uses a Google based search engine which is different from the other programs I tested. Most programs use a closed network search system which would use a set number of sites to search for the word/phrase which was inquired. If what you were searching for wasn't appropriate for those sites...you got nothing. Buddy Browser was much different. For instance, when I typed in a certain grown up phrase (this review site doesn't allow that word), I received many results for a variety of self help sites and hotlines dealing with serious issues on the topic. I didn't find this too alarming, I mean it is a pretty broad topic for the internet, but when it comes down to it, I don't want my 8 year reading about that stuff. Before I counted it out I wanted to take a look at some of the games and other content that was available. I clicked on the Youtube button and was able to search for just about anything (I didn't like that). When using Kidzui.com, the kids would only see child related Youtube videos.
Now, that might sound lame to an adult, but my children really liked them. The game selection on BB was enormous. I thought it was very nice to see a large selection. The games were very basic with little "real" content. They were pretty linear and I figured wouldn't really hold anyone interest. The other thing I noticed about the games was, they were organized by text only with little to no pictures. This made finding a "cool looking" game impossible. Another aspect of BB was a separate .exe program (Buddy Filter), which allowed you to greatly restrict overall internet usage. This program would take control of all website browsers (Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Google Chrome etc) and reduce the access to near nothing. I didn't think this was a bad thing either. It easy to turn off...or so I thought. There is an icon in the system tray, next to clock. If you opened it up, it asks for your UID and PW then, at the click of a button, allows you to turn the filter off. I thought this was a neat concept but the program was VERY buggy and most of the time took 10 minutes or restarting my computer to get it to open the internet back up.
After all of my trial and error I decided that Buddy Browser wasn't for me. I went back to the web site to try and exercise my money back guarantee. I noticed there was not an option to request a refund. There is a contact area that allows to submit questions or comments but after filling out the online form and hitting submit, it says there was an error on the web page. I found an email address on the website and sent customer care and email requesting my money back. So far Buddy Browser has not returned my emails. The third party commerce company that you pay through, 2checkout.com, says that all refunds have to go through BB. I paid through Paypal and disputed the purchase there and am waiting for the results of that request.
Overall, I wouldn't say Buddy Browser is a scam. I would say the customer service is terrible, the site lacks any technical follow through, the filter on the search engine is too relaxed to claim it's good for children 6 years and up and if you buy it, plan on keeping it. You'll probably never get your money back. It's a relatively new program that has a lot of bugs to work out before I would recommend it to anybody.