For the past several days I’ve been using the Brave Browser on my iPhone, Android phone and my PC. There is also a Mac version. It’s a relatively new
Brave is based on Chromium — the underlying code beyond Google’s Chrome browser. But it’s faster than Chrome, spares you from ads by default and claims to be more secure.
Because it shares code with Chrome, it’s able to run most of the extensions developed to enhance Chrome and has a similar enough user interface to make it easy to transition from Google’s popular browser. It can also import bookmarks and other settings from Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firebox.
One the reasons for the increased speed is because, by default, Brave blocks ads. In fact, it reported blocking more than 400 ads in my first few minutes of use, across several news sites.
Regardless of whether you like looking at ads, they take time to download and display and that often causes sites to load more slowly. They also use more data, which can have a financial impact if you’re paying for data. Brave claims that it loads pages 2 times faster on desktop and up to 8 times faster on mobile, compared with Chrome. I didn’t test it with a stopwatch, but I did side-by-side comparisons between Brave and Google Chrome on a number of news sites on an iPhone, Android and Windows PC and definitely noticed faster loading, especially on the mobile devices.
Besides improving performance, there are other upsides to skipping ads. In addition to being faster, it makes using the web less intrusive and eliminates some of the most annoying and distracting ads such as those that play sound or take over the entire page.
There is one downside to blocking ads. As my bosses at the Mercury News, CBS News, Forbes and other sites I write for tell you, they’re the way these companies make the money they need to pay me and other journalists along with their full-time employees and other expenses. Brave’s answer is to allow sites to create a “tipping banner” so that users can pay them via cryptocurrency. I’m not sure how many major sites will bother with this, but if Brave becomes popular, it could catch on.
Brave is also allowing users to opt into viewing ads but, unlike other ad systems, you “earn 70% of the ad revenue that we receive from advertisers.” But there is a catch. You don’t really earn that money, instead it goes into an account that — at least for now — you can only use to tip websites you visit.
I love the idea of these payment systems. Privacy advocates have long argued that our time and attention is valuable and that we should be entitled to compensation for our information. I also like the idea of being able to pay for content through micropayments. Brave allows you to tip as little as 23 cents or as much as you want. I’m happy to pay several dollars a month for quality news sites I visit frequently, but not one I use only on rare occasions.
Still, these payment systems feel a little too geeky for most users and even web operators seeking to accept tips. I enrolled my personal website, Larrysworld.com, to receive payments and – while it wasn’t horribly complex, it was slightly confusing. I didn’t have much trouble installing the required WordPress plug-in to display a banner asking for money, but I’m still trying to figure out how to display that banner. If I ever do get paid, it will be in cryptocurrency that I have to convert to U.S. dollars or use to tip other site operators.
In addition to blocking ads, Brave also blocks tracking and its private browsing window uses Tor to provide a high level of privacy and security. Brave says that its servers “neither see nor store your browsing data,” so it “stays private, on your devices, until you delete it.”
Other than the geeky financing models, Brave is generally user friendly. But, because of the power of competition from Google, Microsoft and Apple, I don’t expect Brave to become a highly popular product. But just because those other browsers are more popular, doesn’t mean they’re better.
Based on what I’ve seen so far, Brave is worth checking out. I’m not deleting my other browsers, but I am spending more time on Brave and – the more I use it, the more I like it. You don’t have to make it your default browser unless you want to. You can install it and see how you like it and easily switch back and forth between Brave and whatever other browsers you use.
It’s not for everyone but is a good choice for those of us who are brave enough to try something new.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
Published at Fri, 26 Jul 2019 11:00:51 +0000