Just when you thought you’d never find a browser to meet your demanding privacy specifications, Brave appears. This Chromium-based offering from Brendan Eich, controversial ex-Mozilla CEO, prides itself on speed and security and was developed specifically to help you escape the prying eyes of ad makers and data-hungry companies.
It also has a secret weapon under the hood - it offers to pay you in exchange for viewing ads. Even without this fascinating premise, if you’re thinking about a more secure or faster browser, Brave should be first on your list.
A new option for people eager to break away from the data/ad dominance of Google
A browser that’s quite unlike anything ever seen before
Leaving that secret weapon to the side for a minute, Brave is a rather nice and super-accessible browser. Built on Chromium, the open source technology underlying Chrome, the vast majority of users will feel very much at home. Tabs, right-click, options, bookmarks, and downloads work almost entirely in the same way.
Brave offers a fluid and attractive set-up and installation process where it will ask you the normal questions about importing settings from Chrome, etc., and establishing the browser as your default. Of course, both can be ignored, should you choose.
Once you start to browse, you’ll notice two aspects that differ considerably from Chrome. Firstly, it’s very fast. This is a consequence of all the ad blocking tech it employs, which will be discussed shortly. Without all the trackers and cookies, Brave can operate much faster than cousin Chrome.
Secondly, you’ll notice that the number of ads you see is slashed, and the number of options for ads you’ll see is multiplied. Brave offers 3 ways to deal with its privacy and security options. If you head into the Settings, you can make significant changes to a great many options, including Shields (adblocking). Social Media Blocking, and Privacy and Security.
When you visit a website, the little Brave icon (a lion) to the right of the search bar will light up. Here you can tweak the settings of that particular page, instead of the global settings which can be accessed in the main Settings menu. You can also turn the Shields off completely if, for some reason, you don't need protection on that particular website. Finally, when you enter the Brave customization options (three bars to the far right of the address baron Chrome; it’s three dots), you’ll be able to apply pre-configured and custom filters to change components to your liking.
When using Brave, you’ll see several opportunities to find out more about Brave Rewards, the most controversial aspect of the browser. The basic idea here is that Brave wants to establish itself as a sort of firewall between you, the user, and companies running and managing ads. It says it will replace ads with its own ads, and show you the originals via desktop notifications only when you expressly permit them to be shown. In exchange for your attention, you’ll be paid in a cryptocurrency called BAT, or Basic Attention Token.
Brave also promise not to send any of your data to the cloud where it can be used to track you. Instead, it keeps the data without sharing and sends a non-identifiable indication that the ad has been seen to the advertiser in question. The method and browser are still in its early days but the concept overall is proving to be very, very popular among certain internet users. Time will tell if Brave truly is the browser that all been waiting for or if its complex privacy rewards and options prove too complicated for the average user.
Where can you run this program?
You can use Brave on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and download it for iPhone and Android.
Is there a better alternative?
Just by looking at the basic browser functions, Chrome or even Edge is probably a little more polished, with Chrome being compatible with a greater number of add-ons. Bring ad blocking and privacy into the argument, however, and the number of competitors drops considerably. Realistically, the privacy powers of Brave are far superior to Chrome and Edge. and are indeed met only by Epic. Unfortunately the latter browser is considered less polished and user-friendly by many.
Brave is a fascinating development in the world of browsers and, even if you have no intention of using it full-time, it’s definitely worth a look. If Chrome’s privacy concerns don’t have you running for the hills, you might not be persuaded to make the jump after all. Chrome is older, more established, and enjoys the full offer of available add-ons. Brave is very much in the early days, and there still remains the question of how its novel 'pay (you) to surf' concept is going to play out.
If you are worried about what Chrome knows about you, or you’re looking to take the leap from another browser (but don’t want to go to Chrome for that very reason), you’re in the perfect position to check out Brave. Even if you don’t sign up for Brave Rewards, it’s still lightning fast and very secure...so secure, in fact, that some reviewers report that websites think they’re bots!
Should you download it?
Yes, if you have any curiosity or downright desire for a more safe browsing experience. Brave is the most interesting thing in browser news for years.