Hands on with Brave Browser

Brave, the new Firefox?

I’ve been using the Brave browser as my full-time web browser for two weeks now, primarily version 0.21.18. It’s easy to tell the software is not yet at version 1.0, and although I’m not ready for this to replace Vivaldi, I really want it to.

Brave is fast. Really fast. It has built-in adblocking and anti-fingerprinting technology. Previously, I’ve relied on uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger for adblocking and anti-fingerprinting. The same ads and trackers are blocked using Brave, but what I really enjoy is the metric that Brave presents on each new tab:

Brave Stats

I think Brave is set to disrupt the browser landscape the same way Firefox did back in 2004. It aims to solve similar web woes much in the same way Firefox did:

  • disrupt the current champion (now Chrome, then Internet Explorer)
  • advocate for the user
  • introduce new technology to revolutionize the web (now BAT, then the gecko rendering engine)

Privacy

Paradoxically, I’m something of a privacy nut. I believe privacy online is dead, but that won’t prevent me from attempting to maintain some shred of it. Where other browsers have offered extensions as a means of maintaining privacy, what strikes me about Brave is that it’s part of their core mission - it’s front and center when you visit their site. And they’ve the chops to back it up - Brave was founded by Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla and Firefox, and the creator of JavaScript. If anyone has web credentials to back up a bold new browser, it’s this guy.

I’ve inspected the network traffic sent by this browser and have not noticed any sort of phoning-home or other shady activity. I originally gravitated toward Vivaldi because that browser exhibited the same behavior. For a lark, try proxying traffic of Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. See how much information is collected about your use of those browsers, especially IE and Chrome.

Ads and the blockchain

Oh, did I mention Brave also wants to combat the online advertising model that has resulted in a race to the bottom, leaving end users with annoying, malicious, and privacy-invading advertisements? The online advertising model hasn’t changed much in the 20+ years I’ve been online, but Brave seeks to combat that using the blockchain.

Blockchain. This buzzword is now as omnipresent as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Originally, I dismissed blockchain as its only implementation at the time was Bitcoin. I assumed the governments of the world would squash Bitcoin as soon as it began to show a hint of a threat to fiat money. While the jury’s still out on that one, I’ve become very interested in the Basic Attention Token (BAT).

Brave is not only the Browser developed by the same company putting forth the BAT, it will have a built-in wallet. Users will have the ability to earn BAT for opting into advertisements. This appears to be lucrative for advertisers, as they will have a captive audience that willingly wants to view their advertisements. It’s also lucrative for users like you and me, because we can be compensated for our time while browsing advertisements! As someone who’s been a life-long opponent of advertising, this possible relationship between advertiser and user, facilitated by BAT, is extremely interesting to me and I will be watching these developments, regardless of whether I stick with the Brave browser in the long run.

Brave’s future

As I mentioned earlier, Brave is still a relatively young browser, and it shows in some areas. While it’s great that Brave makes use of Chromium, the rich Chrome extension ecosystem is not fully supported by Brave. As of version 0.21.18, only nine extensions are supported. Fortunately, one of those is for 1password, my password manager, so my absolute minimum requirement is met. Heavy Evernote users, such as myself, will have to wait for the Evernote Web Clipper extension to become available. This very nearly is a deal-breaker for me, but my hope is that more extension support will roll out in time. It’s clearly not enough to dissuade me from using Brave, as I have for the past two weeks without falling back on Vivaldi as a crutch!