Brave Browser Review

brave_browser

The Brave web browser is developed by Brendan Eich, creator of Javascript, co-founder of Mozilla and now CEO of Brave Software. It is a self-proclaimed modern alternative to Firefox with built-in privacy respecting attributes. That interests me since my main objective with any software connected to the internet is privacy and security. Even though Brave is built around Google’s open-source Chromium project (and I avoid Google software whenever possible) I decided to give Brave a test drive.

First, what I require from a web browser: (1) respect my privacy, (2) open source, (3) simple and minimal, (4) actively maintained by its developers to ensure security, and (5) bookmark syncing functionality and page tabs.

Installation on Debian 10

I installed Brave on my Debian-based Macbook Pro. The software is not available in the Debian repository, but Brave offers simple command-line installation instructions on their website. Installation took only a few minutes:

$ sudo apt install apt-transport-https curl gnupg
$ curl -s https://brave-browser-apt-release.s3.brave.com/brave-core.asc | sudo apt-key --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/brave-browser-release.gpg add -
$ echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://brave-browser-apt-release.s3.brave.com/ stable main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/brave-browser-release.list
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install brave-browser

First Impressions

Upon launching the browser, I was greeted with a dialog to import settings from Firefox. I chose this option and immediately had my bookmarks and passwords imported over. It took a bit of tweaking but I had bookmarks configured and syncing across other devices (including my smartphone) fairly quickly. Brave definitely feels like a modern browser that is in active development. The interface is clean and attractive. Pages load quickly, although I didn’t notice it being faster than Firefox.

The most unique aspect of Brave is Brave Rewards and the built-in crypto wallet. At first I resisted activating Rewards, but figured I would try it just to see how it worked. Basically, you allow Brave to send you advertisements from qualified sponsors in the form of pop-up notifications. If you click on the notification, a new page tab opens in the browser with the ad or sponsor’s website. You are then rewarded with Basic Attention Tokens (BAT), delivered monthly into your browser-based crypto wallet. You can see your ad-viewing history and even customize what type of ads you want to view. After clicking on half a dozen ads, I had earned about $0.04 USD. This to me is trivial and not at all worth my time.

One other feature worth mentioning is the ability to become a verified creator. If you operate a website, YouTube channel, Twitter account, Reddit account, etc, you can earn BAT from your followers by verifying ownership and linking to an approved crypto wallet. Followers can choose to tip you directly or auto-contribute an amount that is paid monthly to a crypto wallet. The downside of becoming a verified creator if you own a website is you have to embed .json code to be tracked. There are also only two wallet options for receiving BAT payments, Gemini and Uphold. I wasn’t excited about either of these choices. Why not allow deposits to the built-in browser wallet?

Conclusion

Brave feels slightly hypocritical as a browser promoting ad blocking, yet wants you to agree to their ad rewards system that essentially tracks your online activity. The Brave Rewards system, although opt-in, doesn’t sit right with me. I understand that Brave is creating a new and better way of advertising on the internet in which creators, advertisers, and users are rewarded appropriately. It’s a smart business concept. But I personally do not want anyone or any software tracking where I go online, even if it claims to be anonymous. Brave has embraced cryptocurrency technology by building it into the browser. And no doubt crypto-enabled apps are the way of the future. Still, I’m seeking something else… on to the next web browser.

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