Mozilla co-founder unveils Brave, a browser that blocks ads by default

Brave logoBrendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla and creator of the JavaScript programming language, has unveiled his latest project: Brave, a Web browser that blocks ads by default then replaces those blocked ads with its own ads. Brave Software, the company behind the eponymous browser, will take a 15 percent cut of the ad revenue generated.

Brave is an open-source Web browser. There's a Brave GitHub repository for Mac/Windows/Linux, iOS, and Android. It looks like the iOS version, ironically enough, is based on Firefox for iOS, and the PC version is based on Chromium (an open-source project that somewhat parallels the development of Chrome). At first glance, it looks like the Android version of Brave is based on Bubble.

If you want to try out Brave, you have to download and build the browser from a GitHub repo. You can sign up to be a beta tester, which presumably grants you some pre-built binaries. Currently, there is a waiting list.

Mozilla co-founder unveils Brave, a browser that blocks ads by default

The whole premise of Brave, its raison d'être if you will, is that it automatically blocks programmatic online advertising and tracking cookies by default. Programmatic advertising refers to ads that are placed on websites via automated software. Most websites run a mix of conventional display advertising, which is bought and sold in human-to-human advertising deals, and programmatic advertising.

In theory, much like if you installed Ghostery or Adblock Plus, this results in a faster—and potentially safer, in the case of malvertising—Web browsing experience.

In practice, Brave just sounds like a cash-grab. Brave isn't just a glorified adblocker: after removing ads from a webpage, Brave then inserts its own programmatic ads. It sounds like these ads will be filled by ad networks that work with Brave directly, and Brave will somehow police these ads to make sure they're less invasive/malevolent than the original ads that were stripped out. In exchange, Brave will take a 15 percent cut of the ad revenue. Instead of using tracking cookies that follow you around the Internet, Brave will use your local browsing history to target ads.

It isn't clear whether Brave will actually be any faster than another browser, or whether it will save on mobile data usage, once it has inserted its own ads. The new ads still have to be pulled down across the Internet. Brave doesn't have a special pipe that makes its ads load more quickly than the ones it replaced. It's fairly safe to assume that Brave will also use quite a lot of CPU time to strip out ads and then insert new ones.

Of the remaining ad revenue, 55 percent will go to the publisher and 15 percent will go to the ad supplier. Curiously, the last 15 percent will be returned to the user, which they can then use to make micropayments to their favourite websites. There aren't yet any technical details of how this revenue splitting will work in practice.

Except for how it handles advertising, it seems Brave's only other interesting feature is that it rather handily integrates the HTTPS Everywhere add-on (if an HTTPS version of a website is available, then Brave will automatically switch to it). If the browser has some other useful features—a nice UI, cross-platform sync, incognito mode, a password manager, etc.—then the website doesn't mention them at all.

Brave has raised £1.75 million ($2.5 million) in angel investment so far, and is continuing to seek more. Eich says that he needs around 7 million users to hit critical mass, to prove that the system actually works. The plan is to have a stable, public release "later this year."

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: browsers, Mozilla

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