Which browser – or browsers – rule the internet? Usage stats tell us it’s Chrome, followed by Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera and the un-edgy Edge.
And yet, beyond this mainstream exists a surprising number of alternatives. Browsers aren’t yet done and dusted it seems and, if anything, new ones are on the uptick. The question is why.
Privacy and performance are plausible hooks but, with the exception of Tor, it’s difficult to pin down how neo-browsers offer much improvement. The suspicion is that some – including a plethora of ad-blocking add-ons – have latched on to these themes to front opaque business models with hidden downsides.
Then there’s Brave, a new Chromium-based browser for the ad-blocking age that would doubtless have fallen into obscurity like all the others if it weren’t for the fame of the man behind it, Brendan Eich.
If anyone knows about browsers, it’s Eich, surely. Why another browser then?
Eich stated in an early blog that Brave wants to rebuild the crumbling relationship between users, advertisers and publishers by re-balancing everyone’s interests more evenly.
Today’s big browsers are like windows through which advertising pours, along with ad-tracking systems that boost their commercial prowess. Inevitably, this messes up privacy because ads must watch people’s behaviour. Add Google’s search dominance and the problem deepens.
What companies like Google say, basically, is trust us – yes, we watch you but at least we’re the devil you know. Earnest rivals such as Mozilla lack Google’s conflicts of interest but struggle to stem programmatic advertising because that means retrofitting privacy to the skeleton of an ageing browser model.
We’re left with weak anonymity modes or better ones with compromises – Mozilla’s recent Focus app is more a stripped-down search utility than a full-service browser for instance. Browsing can also be scandalously slow, which drives people to disingenuous ad-blocking tech.
Brave’s alternative looks standard-issue at first: there’s ad-blocking (fingerprinting protection and script blocking), support for password managers (LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password) and HTTPS Anywhere integration. It mentions anti-phishing protection. However, under the hood:
Brave currently runs an experimental automated and anonymous micro-donation system for publishers called Brave Payments.
Originally based on Bitcoin, this, it transpires, is about to be replaced by an Ethereum-based payments system called Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). When launched to fund the startup behind Brave earlier this year, BATs were seized upon by speculators who think they’ll increase in value.
Brave, then, is less a browser than a demo client for what is claimed to be a fairer ad platform in which advertisers, publishers and users are rewarded for taking part in what Eich calls a blockchain-based “game” (Brave gets a cut too).
Brave’s BAT platform shields the anonymity of users while guaranteeing the authenticity of their viewing in detail. Only genuine ads are served so there’s no malvertising.
Eich is a vague about whether users get a share of BATs – it’s a “possibility” in some cases. If users don’t, what incentive is there to use it? What it offers – ad-blocking, less malvertising, and perhaps some performance gains – can be found in browsers without BAT.
It’s a fascinating concept but, ironically, its advantages are hidden from people in the same way that the surveillance of today’s ad-tracking systems is.
It’s often said that with Google and Facebook, the user becomes the product. Brave’s alternative of turning users into tokens sounds like a modest advance at best.
10 comments on “What’s under the hood of the new Brave browser?”
Sounds like Brave won’t be any different from the “trust the devil you know” angle.
Nonetheless it’s an interesting idea; looking forward to more detail/developments.
This isn’t exactly a fair review of how Brave intends to work, based on its own documentation.
First of all, it’s 100% open source so anyone with the right programming skills can interpret what the code is doing.
Second, in the final product, it will have three modes: complete ad blocking, safe ads (vetted to remove malvertising and tracking), and no ads + a cryptocurrency wallet that allows users to securely and anonymously pay the websites they visit the most. Absolutely no other browser has ever done anything like this.
I’ve been a Firefox user for a very long time. I’ve always been using ad blockers since their early days. Internet advertising has become invasive, duplicitous, and downright evil, and the company’s perpetuating those ads deserve to lose money and go bankrupt. But unfortunately honest publishers also get hit as collateral damage, and eventually this is going to cause them to close their doors or put up paywalls. Eich’s solution with Brave is far and away the best proposal the market has yet seen to both allow the web to be monetized (as any good capitalist should appreciate) while also protecting user privacy and security.
Brave for desktop definitely isn’t ready for mainstream use. The mobile apps are very good, fast, and stable, with some periodic but infrequent glitches. I only have two real complaints: they are using a third party analytics vendor and it’s hard to tell what data the vendor is collecting, and they need a method for users to support bug reports / debug logs that doesn’t involve forums or Github.
Nevertheless, Brave still has a vested interest in brokering advertising. Is that really what the average user wants?
I do. I’m sick of being tracked and monetized by the likes of Google. I’m also weary of endless extensions added onto the browser. I understand the need for advertising to help pay the costs. As I see it, sooner or later the system we currently know is going to be broken given the increasing number of users insisting upon blocking everything. Either sites are going to erect paywalls OR we’re going to have to adopt a system similar to what Brave proposes. I don’t mind setting aside some money for my browsing requirements. I don’t expect a free ride like so many selfish users. I think you have misjudged Eich’s idea.
I have Brave on my phone and its super fast compared to the big names. It didn’t mention anything about payments or advertizing when I installed it.
I now use Brave as my main browser, really impressed
It’s a decently snappy browser. Even chrome is bloated these days. There are other decently snappy browsers, but this being opensource and led by a well-known person in the field gives it an advantage
I downloaded it for the simple reason it lets me contribute to small YouTube channels who will never reach the megahits required before receiving anything for their efforts.
Since it is Open Source, you can bet your butt that it will be fully vetted by anyone suspicious of nefarious intentions.
the internet was developed in the university. the ownership of it technically belongs to the people. monetizing it is okay, but once again america chose the route of fraud, usury and theft. people claiming ownership to something that is not theirs. the network, isp and browser should get a small piece. and of course, this revenue should be used for regulation and security. but the rest should be paid to the artists contributing. directly. whether they be musicians, writers, scientists, economists, philosophers. of course there is a pot for new talent. for legal fees. so, for example, if i go to consortium news for thirty minutes each day, they get that % of my weighted fee. assuming they have the LEGALLY REQUIRED arrangements to pay their contributors. if writer “a” has problems, he can quit without forfeiting ownership of his own THOUGHT. i use consortium news to coax you. imagine if alex jones was able to own your thought. now, if i discover miles mathis and search and go to his website directly, then he gets paid directly. if i go to consortium first, well, they get a small fee for promoting it but then he pays miles. now if i do a search on miles mathis and he has a website called miles mathis, he should rightfully demand to be at the top of the list and not be buried by some algorithm planted to place alex jones first. WHO REALLY OWNS ARETHA FRANKLIN’S SONGS? HOW ABOUT MARVIN GAYE? JOHN COLTRANE? TCHAIKOVSKY? ATLANTIC RECORDS? how can that be right? hence, the pot. except in aretha’s case which is obvious, glory be. the video of the church choir, the bungee jumper, the forest landscape, the madhat snowboarder, the zambian dance group. whatever. it can all be arranged into something good for everyone. and of course, mechanisms to adjust for immediate exits, length of time spent, etc. thank you!
Nice one. To the point. Exactly what i was wondering. The real draw, I think, is ppl are sick of big companies – who cant be trusted – w/those predatory terms of service agreements. But can you trust unnamed browsers more? The answer seemed to be obviously not. The truth is most ppl dont mind adds, or even targeted adds, if you ask. Just dont read & copy items that have a presumption of privacy, & dont on-sell private data that isnt bound by all terms agreed! You could have a bullet point, 1 page, terms of service w/only those things in bright red. And if you stuck to them, ppl would be ok w/that. We’re all capitalists here.
Honestly, even if you said “we’ll also onsell your data profile to third parties w/no restrictions” – youd still get 75% of ppl satisfied. Unfortunately. Opt out features on everything – or price increase to use a platform/service w/ “opt out bc” enabled, of this business model, that scales by number of things “opted out” of, would also be fine now. Ppl get what you are the product means now. No1 has to pretend anymore.