Today marks the official launch of Brave 1.0, a free open-source browser. The beta version has already drawn 8 million monthly users, but now, the full stable release is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Brave promises to prioritize security by blocking third-party ads, trackers, and autoplay videos automatically. So you don’t need to go into your settings to ensure greater privacy, though you can adjust those settings if you want to.
Several browsers have taken steps to block trackers and ads, but in many cases, they’re limited or need to be enabled. Firefox started blocking some trackers by default earlier this year. Safari goes a step further by blocking almost all third-party trackers from sites you don’t visit frequently while allowing trackers from sites you check regularly but limiting their duration to 24 hours.
Microsoft Edge is still testing a feature that also only blocks some trackers by default, which should arrive on January 15th. Google announced in May that it plans to launch tools that would let users see cookies stored by the Chrome browser and select which trackers to block, but we haven’t heard anything else about those tools, including when they’ll be available.
Built-in ad-blockers are a little harder to find. Most of the time, you need to download an extension. Chrome automatically blocks ads that fail standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. The mobile versions of Microsoft Edge have a built-in ad-blocker, but you need to turn it on.
Now, these ad-blockers can deal a serious hit to publishers and creators who rely on ad views for revenue. But what sets Brave apart from other browsers is that it offers a possible solution in Brave Ads: a form of ads that pays you to view them, doesn’t access your data, and appears as push notifications rather than webpage banners. Brave says that its ads will be targeted to the user, but none of the user’s information will leave the browser. You can also adjust the number of ads you’re shown each hour.
Brave Rewards gives users blockchain tokens when they opt in to Brave Ads. If you read an article you really like or want to support your favorite creator, you can give those tokens to sites and creators. Alternatively, you can cash them yourself via Brave’s partner Uphold or eventually exchange those tokens for gift cards and restaurant vouchers.
It’s an ambitious plan but not an entirely unique one. HTC partnered with browser Opera to allow blockchain micropayments to websites on its Exodus phone last year. The question is whether enough consumers and publishers buy into this new system to allow it to work. Micropayments haven’t proven viable yet, and similar schemes have had limited traction. Dutch app Blendle lets you purchase individual articles from various news sites for a small fee, but it hasn’t had steady success. The Civil Foundation aimed to create ad-free media services built on blockchain, but its token sale failed.
Brave’s privacy options go beyond blocking ads and trackers. It actually has two private modes: Private Window and Private Window with Tor. The first is like any other browser’s private or incognito mode: none of your data is saved to your device, but it may still be seen by the websites you visit, your network administrator, or ISP. For added security, Brave has a private mode that uses Tor, also known as The Onion Router, a browser that hides your information by encrypting it and passing it through three relays, bringing that level of security to your browsing. However, Brave notes you may want to switch to Tor’s own browser if security and anonymity are absolutely necessary.
If you’re hooked on Chrome — and no matter how you slice it, the vast majority of users are — it’s easy to move over to Brave. (Here’s our guide on how to do that.) Former Verge editor Vlad Savov made the switch from Chrome to Brave since he felt Brave was the best alternative to Google’s browser. Brave is similar to Chrome, as they’re both built off of Chromium, and Brave will even let you use Chrome extensions and themes. The biggest difference is that Brave isn’t owned by Google, so using Brave limits the amount of data Google has on you (though other browsers can claim that as well). Vlad also found that Brave felt faster than Chrome back in March.
It’ll be interesting to see if Brave’s popularity soars now that it’s out of beta. It was founded by Brendan Eich, who co-founded Mozilla with its rival Firefox browser. Eich was forced to resign as the CEO of Mozilla in 2014, less than two weeks after getting the job, due to a controversy surrounding his $1,000 donation in favor of a ballot proposition to ban same-sex marriage in California some years earlier.