What is a Brave browser?
Brave is a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software, Inc. based on the Chromium web browser.
Brave, has an unapologetic focus on user privacy and comes with a radical reimagining of how online advertising ought to worK.
More about Brave browser
When Brendan Eich and Brian Bondy founded Brave in 2015, they wanted to address what they perceived as the biggest problem with the modern internet: intrusive advertising.
Advertising is the fuel that powers the modern internet, allowing websites and digital creatives to monetize their content without charging users for each article read or every video watched. That said, Eich and Bondy think it’s got some pretty significant downsides, citing the potentially privacy-harming nature of advertising trackers, as well as the negative impact it has on the overall user experience.
Brave was one of the first browsers to include built advertisement and tracker blockers, leapfrogging the likes of Opera. It also came with its own cryptocurrency, called BAT (or Basic Attention Token), allowing users to reimburse the sites and creators they like.
Essentially, Brave wants to re-imagine how the Internet works: not just on a usability level, but on an economic level. It’s an undeniably radical vision, but you wouldn’t expect any less, given its founding team.
Some characteristics of Brave
The Brave browser is characterized by an unapologetically pathological focus on user privacy. Its primary mechanism for delivering this is something called Brave Shields, which combines traditional tracker-blocking technology, paired with several under-the-hood browser configuration tweaks. This feature is turned on by default, although users can easily de-activate it should it cause websites to break.
As you might expect, Brave blocks trackers based on whether they appear in several public blocklists. Going beyond that, it also uses cloud-based machine learning to identify trackers that slipped through the net, in addition to browser-based heuristics.
Brave Shields also forces sites to use HTTPS, where both an encrypted and unencrypted option is available. By forcing users to use an encrypted version of a website, it makes it harder for those on your network to intercept and interfere with the content you visit. While this sounds abstract, it’s more common than you think. Public Wi-Fi hotspots, like those found in airports, routinely inject their own ads into websites being visited. Although upgrading to SSL isn’t a silver bullet against all security and privacy, it’s a pretty significant security upgrade.
Separately from Shields, Brave also includes a built-in TOR browser. TOR allows users to circumvent local censorship — like that which occurs on a national or ISP level — by routing traffic through other computers on its decentralized network.
Earnings in Brave
As mentioned, Brave uses its own cryptocurrency, called BAT, for rewarding websites for the content they appreciate.
Brave has its own fungible (essentially, convertible) cryptocurrency based on the Ethereum blockchain. And, as a browser with mainstream aspirations, Brave can deliver this concept to millions of people.
So, let’s talk about how it works. Firstly, it’s entirely optional. Users can choose to use brave without even touching the BAT micropayments system. By default, it’s turned off.
If you decide to opt-in, users can purchase BAT through a cryptocurrency exchange, like Coinbase. They can also earn it by viewing “privacy-respecting” ads. Rather than traditional banner-based advertising, these present as push notifications. Users can choose to dismiss a notification or view it in full-screen.
Of all advertising revenue that Brave receives, it shares 70 percent with users, keeping a 30 percent share. It’s also worth noting that Brave’s advertising program is only available in a handful of countries, mostly scattered across Europe and the Americas, plus Israel, India, Australia, South Africa, the Philippines, Singapore, and New Zealand.
The sites accepting BAT include The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Slate, as well as popular tech publications like Android Police and The Register. Brave also plans to allow users to spend their rewards for more tangible rewards: like hotel stays, gift cards, and restaurant vouchers. At the time of publication, this system isn’t yet available.
A Brave new world?
Should you ditch Google Chrome for Brave? Maybe. There’s a lot to appreciate about this browser. While it’s generally fast, it also feels extremely polished. I appreciate the fact that it comes with both light and dark themes and the ease in which it allows users to protect their privacy from cross-site trackers.
But Brave is more than a browser. It’s a statement about how the Internet should work. And while most people will agree that the pace and scale of online tracking should be rolled back, many may disagree whether cryptocurrencies are the best way to monetize content that is otherwise funded by traditional in-browser advertising.
And are push notification-based advertisements on your desktop really a less irritating form of advertising?