Brave (web browser)

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Brave
Developer(s)Brave Software, Inc.[1]
Initial release13 November 2019 (Version 1.0)
Stable release(s)
Android1.60.118[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 14 November 2023
iOS1.60.118[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 14 November 2023
Linux1.60.118[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 14 November 2023
macOS1.60.118[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 14 November 2023
Windows1.60.118[2] Edit this on Wikidata / 14 November 2023
Repositorygithub.com/brave/brave-browser (Android, Windows, macOS, Linux); github.com/brave/brave-ios (iOS)
Written inJavaScript, Swift, C++
EnginesBlink, V8, (WebKit on iOS)
Operating system
Platformx86-64, IA-32 (Windows only), ARM (Mac only)
TypeWeb browser
LicenseMPL 2.0[3]
Websitebrave.com Edit this at Wikidata

Brave is a free and open-source web browser developed by Brave Software, Inc. based on the Chromium web browser. Brave is a privacy-focused browser, which automatically blocks most advertisements and website trackers in its default settings. Users can turn on optional ads that reward them for their attention in the form of Basic Attention Tokens (BAT), which can be used as a cryptocurrency or to make payments to registered websites and content creators.[4][5]

Brave Software's headquarters are in San Francisco, California.[1]

As of July 2023, Brave reported more than 59.35 million monthly active users, 22.38 million daily active users and a network of more than 1.6 million content creators.[6]

History[edit]

On 28 May 2015, CEO Brendan Eich and CTO Brian Bondy founded Brave Software.[7] On 20 January 2016, Brave Software launched the first version of Brave with ad-blocking capabilities and announced plans for an ad platform that uses "browser-side anonymous targeting".[8]

In June 2018, Brave released a pay-to-surf test-version of the browser. This version of Brave came preloaded with approximately 250 ads and sent a detailed log of the user's browsing activity to Brave for the short-term purpose of testing this functionality. Brave announced that expanded trials would follow.[9] Later that month, Brave added support for Tor in its desktop browser's private-browsing mode.[10]

Until December 2018, Brave ran on a fork of Electron called Muon, which they marketed as a "more secure fork". Nevertheless, Brave developers moved to Chromium, citing a need to ease their maintenance burden.[11] Brave Software released the final Muon-based version with the intention that users would update to a newer version as its end-of-life approached.[12]

In December 2018, Brave partnered with HTC to make Brave Browser the default browser on the HTC Exodus 1.[13]

In June 2019, Brave started testing a new ad-blocking rule-matching algorithm implemented in Rust, replacing the previous C++ one. The uBlock Origin and Ghostery algorithms inspired the new logic, which Brave claims to be on average 69 times faster than the previous algorithm.[14]

Brave launched its stable release, version 1.0, on 13 November 2019, while having 8.7 million monthly active users overall.[15] At the time, it had approximately 3 million active users on a daily basis. Brave 1.0, running on Android, iOS, Windows 10, macOS, or Linux, integrated "almost all of Brave's marquee features across all platforms", according to Engadget.[16]

In November 2020, Brave reported having 20 million monthly users,[17] and in September 2021, it passed 36 million monthly active users.[18]

In March 2021, Brave built its search engine out of Tailcat, which it acquired earlier that year from Cliqz, a subsidiary of Hubert Burda Media based in Germany. Tailcat was designed to deliver search results without logging user activity or creating profiles.[19][20]

In April 2021, Brave became the first browser to be added to the Epic Games Store.[21][22]

In June 2021, the public beta for Brave Search, Brave Software's search engine, was launched. It exited its beta phase in June 2022 along with an announcement that within its year-long beta testing period, Brave Search surpassed 2.5 billion total queries.[20][23][24][25]

Business model[edit]

Brave Rewards[edit]

The Brave browser's business model is based on its share of ad revenue. Unlike other browsers that only display websites, Brave earns revenue from ads by taking a 15% cut of publisher ads and a 30% cut of user ads. User ads are notification-style pop-ups, while publisher ads are viewed on or in association with publisher content. Brave expects to generate revenue from selling Basic Attention Tokens (BATs) to advertisers, letting users earn them while viewing ads and content.[4]

Some critics considered the model controversial. In January 2016, in reaction to Brave Software's initial announcement, Sebastian Anthony of Ars Technica described Brave as a "cash-grab" and a "double dip". Anthony concluded, "Brave is an interesting idea, but generally it's rather frowned upon to stick your own ads in front of someone else's".[26] TechCrunch,[27] Computerworld[28] and Engadget[29] termed Brave's ad replacement plans "controversial" in 2016. In April 2016, the CEO of the Newspaper Association of America, David Chavern, said that Brave's proposed replacement of advertising "should be viewed as illegal and deceptive by the courts, consumers, and those who value the creation of content".[30][31]

Since April 2019, users of the Brave browser can opt in to the Brave Rewards feature. Users can earn BAT by viewing advertisements that are displayed as notifications by the operating system of their computer or device or as a native pop-up window. Advertising campaigns are matched with users by inference from their browsing history; this targeting is carried out locally, with no transmission of personally identifiable data outside the browser.[32]

Collection of donations on behalf of content creators[edit]

Users may choose to send BAT micropayments to websites and content creators within the ecosystem. Site owners and creators must first register with Brave as a publisher. Users can either turn on auto-contribute, which automatically divides a specified monthly contribution in proportion to the time spent, or they can manually send a chosen amount (referred to as a tip) while visiting the site or creator.[33] In addition or alternatively, users may withdraw their BAT to a verified Uphold[34] or Gemini wallet.[35]

The first version of the micropayments feature was launched in 2016 under the name "Brave Payments" and used Bitcoin.[36] Advertisements were shown in a separate browser tab.[37]

In December 2018, British YouTube content creator Tom Scott said that he had not received any donations collected on his behalf by Brave.[38][39] Two days after the complaint, Brave issued an update to "clearly indicate which publishers and creators have not yet joined Brave Rewards so users can better control how they donate and tip"[40] and in January 2020 another update to change the behavior of unclaimed tips. They are now held in the browser and transferred if the creator signs up within 90 days; otherwise, they are returned to the user.[41][42]

Insertion of referral codes[edit]

On 6 June 2020, a Twitter user pointed out that Brave inserts affiliate referral codes when users navigate to Binance.[43][44] Further research revealed that Brave also redirected the URLs of other cryptocurrency exchange websites. In response to the backlash from the users, Brave's CEO apologized and called it a "mistake" and said "we're correcting". He remarked that Brave seeks affiliate revenue while trying to build a viable business, adding that "This includes bringing new users to Binance & other exchanges via opt-in trading widgets/other UX that preserves privacy prior to opt-in. It includes search revenue deals, as all major browsers do."[45][46]

Two days later, Brave released a new version which they said made auto-completion to partner links opt-in,[47] followed by a blog post explaining the issue and apologizing.[48][49]

Funding and legal structure[edit]

Brave keeps financial reserves in the form of BATs for itself, with 200 million BATs (valued at $240 million) kept for building its blockchain-based digital advertising system and 300 million BATs allocated as seed for browser users' wallets as of 2021.[4]

By August 2016, the company had received at least US$7 million in angel investments from venture capital firms, including Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, Propel Venture Partners, Pantera Capital, Foundation Capital and the Digital Currency Group.[27]

Originally incorporated in Delaware as Hyperware Labs, Inc. in 2015, the company later changed its name to Brave Software, Inc. and registered in California, where it is headquartered.[50]

Features[edit]

Brave Leo[edit]

Brave Firewall + VPN[edit]

Brave Firewall + VPN is a browser based system wide firewall and VPN for desktop, iOS and Android.[51][52] It uses the Guardian VPN.[53]

In October 2023, reports emerged that Brave Browser was installing its $9.99 VPN service on Windows machines without the user's consent.[54] The developer later announced it intends to reverse its decision, promising to not install the VPN unless it's enabled or purchased by the user.[55]

Brave Search[edit]

Brave Search is a search engine developed by Brave and released in Beta form in March 2021, following the acquisition of Tailcat, a privacy-focused search engine from Cliqz.[56] Since October 2021, Brave Search is the default search engine for Brave browser users in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Germany.[57]

Brave Wallet[edit]

Brave Wallet is a native crypto wallet with no extensions required. It supports all EVM-compatible chains (Polygon, xDai, Avalanche, etc.) and L2 chains. In addition, Brave Wallet can be used to store non-fungible tokens. Desktop edition supports also hardware wallets such as Ledger and Trezor, while mobile support is planned.[58][59][60]

Brave Swap[edit]

Brave Swap is an aggregator for cryptocurrency DEX's based on 0x.[61] It lets users swap Ethereum tokens for other tokens from within the browser. Brave makes money off this by taking a small "router" fee. It plans to return 20% of this fee to the user in the form of BAT tokens.[62][63]

Privacy[edit]

A research study analyzing the data reported by browsers to their back-end servers by Douglas J. Leith of the University of Dublin reported that Brave had the highest level of privacy of the browsers tested.[64]

To prevent browser fingerprinting, Brave uses fingerprint randomization,[65] which makes the browser look different to websites over browser restart. In 2023, researchers demonstrated bypassing of anti-fingerprinting protection in Brave and called for implementation of more robust countermeasures.[66]

On 15 October 2021, Brave announced a new privacy feature dubbed "debouncing". The new feature is designed to disarm bounce tracking, a method of Internet tracking through intermediary domains that load when users click on a link. Debouncing will automatically recognize when users are about to visit a known tracking domain and renavigates the user to their intended destination, skipping the tracking site altogether.[67][68]

A test conducted by a freelance journalist writing for Digital Trends found Brave to be the only mainstream browser to pass the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cover Your Tracks test.[69]

In April 2022, Brave announced a de-AMP feature that bypasses Google's AMP system, directing the user straight to the original website instead. The company cited this as a privacy feature, calling AMP "harmful to users and to the Web at large". When this feature is activated, Yandex Turbo Pages, which are similar to AMP pages, are also bypassed.[70][71][72]

Brave Shields[edit]

Brave Shields is an engine inspired by uBlock Origin[73] and others, which blocks third-party ads and trackers[74] in a similar fashion to other extension-based ad blockers. The advertisement blocking features are enabled by default.[74] Users are given control to adjust ad blocking, script and cookies settings in the Shields and Privacy section of the browser.[75] As well as ads and cookie-based trackers, Brave shields also protect against fingerprint tracking using a technique it calls "farbling", allowing each browser session to appear unique.[76][77]

Brave Talk[edit]

Brave Talk is a browser-based video conferencing tool based on Jitsi. It was integrated into Brave in September 2021.[78] Brave Talk has both free and paid tiers.[79]

Tor windows[edit]

Brave offers Tor, .onion and Tor bridges support in its desktop version. Users can switch to Tor-enabled browsing by clicking on the hamburger menu in the top-right corner of the browser.[80]

One privacy issue appeared via a private disclosure on Brave's HackerOne bug bounty platform on 12 January 2021. The disclosure reported that Brave was sending DNS requests to ISP of the users instead of routing it through the Tor network, thus allowing ISPs to have knowledge of user's browsing sessions.[81][82]

Brave fixed the issue in its Nightly channel soon after it was initially reported. Once the bug received public attention in mid-February from Twitter users verifying the vulnerability, the fix was soon uplifted to the Stable channel and landed in Brave 1.20.110.[83]

Other features[edit]

  • SugarCoat: A tool integrated in Brave since the fourth quarter of 2021 that automatically replaces tracking libraries with a spoofed, privacy-preserving replacement to increase site compatibility with adblocking scripts.[84][85]
  • InterPlanetary File System (IPFS): In January 2021, Brave became one of the first web browsers to offer native integration with a peer-to-peer networking protocol.[86]
  • Blockchain domain names: As of March 2021, Brave supports decentralized domains, namely the ones provided by Unstoppable Domains (.crypto etc.) and Ethereum Name Services (ENS).[87]
  • RSS reader and News aggregator: In December 2020, Brave integrated a personalized news reader focused on user privacy into the browser.[88] It was renamed from Brave Today to Brave News in 2021.[89] As of June 2021, the news feed also includes promoted articles based upon the Brave ads platform.[90]
  • Wayback Machine Integration: In February 2020, the Wayback Machine was integrated into the browser. Upon hitting an HTTP 404 error, among other error codes, the Wayback Machine is automatically queried to display a cached version of the page.[91]
  • Brave Playlist: An iOS feature that lets users create playlists of audio and video media sources and play them offline.[92]

Basic Attention Token[edit]

Basic Attention Token
Denominations
CodeBAT
Development
Original author(s)Brave Software
White paperBasic Attention Token White Paper
Implementation(s)Brave Rewards
Initial release31 May 2017
Development statusActive
Developer(s)Brave Software, BAT Project
Ledger
Circulating supply1.49 billion
Supply limit1.5 billion
Valuation
Exchange rateFloating
Website
Websitebasicattentiontoken.org

The "Basic Attention Token" (BAT) is a cryptocurrency token based on Ethereum, created for use in an open-source, decentralized ad exchange platform and as a cryptocurrency.[93] It is based on the ERC-20 standard.

In an initial coin offering on 31 May 2017, Brave sold one billion BAT for a total of 156,250 Ethereum ($35 million) in less than 30 seconds.[93][94] An additional 500 million BAT was retained by the company to be used to promote the adoption of the platform.[93]

In early December 2017, the company disbursed the first round of its "user growth pool" grants: a total of 300,000 BAT was distributed to new users on a first-come, first-served basis.[95][96]

Advertisers must purchase BAT to show ads on the Brave Rewards platform. Brave facilitates USD-based ad purchases, but will then buy BAT on behalf of the advertiser. These ads are then shown to the user, where the user then receives the BAT spent on the ad, minus a 30% fee going to Brave.[97] Users can then tip creators using the "Brave Creators" platform (creators being hosts of websites the user has visited or literal creators on platforms such as YouTube), or withdraw their BAT to a verified Gemini or Uphold wallet.[98][99]

In March 2021, BAT became available on the Binance Smart Chain in the form of wrapped BAT.[100][101] These tokens are wrapped by Binance and the original BAT is held in "Token Vaults" with Binance.[102][better source needed]

Reception[edit]

In February 2016, Andy Patrizio of Network World reviewed a pre-release version of Brave. Patrizio criticized the browser's feature set as "mighty primitive", but lauded its performance: "Pages load instantly. I can't really benchmark page loads since they happen faster than I can start/stop the stopwatch".[103]

In April 2017, TechWorld praised Brave's "great speeds and advanced ad-tracking controls", but said that its "extension functionality is still lacking".[104]

In November 2019, CNET reviewed the newly released 1.0 version of Brave. They praised the speed, saying "Brave is hands-down the fastest browser I've used this year on any operating system, for both mobile and desktop. Memory usage by the browser is far below most others, while website loading is far faster."[105] They also said battery usage could be reduced by using the browser—"With less strain on resources comes less strain on your device's battery life as well."[105] However, they had concerns that the user base is still far below Chrome, and thus it may not be able to build out its ad system fully yet, saying—"The browser will need more users, however, to truly build out its new ad system: while 8 million people is a good start, it will still need to compete with Google Chrome's billion-plus users."[105]

In March 2021, The New York Times analyzed internet browsers and recommended Brave as the best privacy browser. Writer Brian X. Chen concluded, "My favorite websites loaded flawlessly, and I enjoyed the clean look of ad-free sites, along with the flexibility of opting in to see ads whenever I felt like it."[106]

ZDNET briefly reviewed Brave in July 2021, offering mixed feedback. Writer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes found Brave to be the better option over Google Chrome for privacy, but found the default ads promoting cryptocurrency trading to be at odds with Brave's purported priorities, stating "(...) it's true that it does display ads, and there are links to several cryptocurrency services. They're "safe" ads, and you can turn them off, but it wasn't what some people expected to see in a browser that had been billed as putting privacy at its core."[107]

Brave has received negative press for diverting ad revenue from websites to itself,[26] collecting unsolicited donations for content creators without their consent,[39] suggesting affiliate links in the address bar[45] and installing a paid VPN service without the user's consent.[54]

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