Brendan Eich, inventor of Java Script, is back with a new web browser project called Brave. Not just a new piece of software, Brave is attempting to create an entirely new way to browse the web without being intrusively tracked, and to create a sustainable model for advertising that isn’t obnoxious to users.
Brave by default blocks ads – all of them.
You may have noticed that even if your current browser has an ad blocker like AdBlock Plus, you still see tons of ads. That’s because the ad blockers have special arrangements with major advertisers to let those ads through.
Brave instead just blocks everything – and it doesn’t even load any of the advertising software code.
This lets Brave load pages like a rocketship. I tried out the pre-release version and it’s very fast.
Brave also blocks tracking cookies and tracking pixels. It’s not yet perfect on keeping you from being tracked, but it’s getting there.
So far, good for us, but bad for publishers.
But Brave has another part to the plan. They are going to reinsert non-obtrustive, non-obnoxious ads that rely on a keyword system that isn’t tracking individual users.
The revenue from these ads would go 55% to the publisher, 15% to the ad network, 15% to Brave to give it a revenue stream, and another 15% to the user in the form of Bitcoins.
That’s right, the advertisers would pay you a small fee to look at the ads.
Users can elect to browse ad-free, but that requires that they pay a fee – in Bitcoin – that will be used as micropayments to the ad free sites. The idea I gather, is that ultimately you’ll start using the Bitcoins you are paid for watching ads right back as micropayments to web sites or others. It’s priming the pump for pay for content model.
The Newspapers Already Hate Brave – And They Haven’t Even Tried It Yet
Not everybody thinks it’s neat, of course. The major media web sites hate it and already sent Brave a cease and desist letter claiming the new browser is illegal.
Is anybody surprised? This is the same group of people who has fought almost every single digital innovation for as long as they could – while their business models were imploding and while they were doing super-obnoxious things to their users like full screen takeovers, popups, auto-play videos, and tracking every single thing about us as they desperately try to find ways to raise revenue.
While these companies have eventually gotten on board with most digital innovation, the damage has been done by the time they do. No surprise huge numbers of journalists have lost their jobs and the business is struggling mightily.
I’m not saying the Brave model is perfect, but you’d think they’d at least be interested in trying something new. But for the n-th time, alas not.
Taking Brave For a Test Drive
I’ve been looking for a Firefox replacement for a while since that browser has becoming increasingly bloated and buggy.
I gave Brave’s desktop browser for Mac a whirl last week, doing a day’s worth of browsing with it.
Brave is based on Chrome’s open source engine under the hood. As promised, Brave is very fast. Of course, it also has no plugin support, etc. yet, so as it adds these it will no doubt grow slower itself.
I could browse almost every site without any problem. The only one that had troubles was TCF Bank, which took a long time to render for some reason.
It is, as I said, very fast. And it’s really great to read sites without obnoxious ads. I have no problem with advertising per se. That’s part of the deal. But so many sites are using ridiculous tactics these days.
Believe it or not, I’d start using the thing full time right now except for a few user interface quirks. Some of this is doubtless my long time marriage to Firefox that has me used to how it does business, but some simple changes could get me to embrace this as my default browser right now. Nitpicks include:
- You can’t right click a link to open a URL in a new window (only tabs are supported, and I don’t like tabs)
- Hitting CTRL-C copies the styled instead of the unstyled text. So if I copy/paste the title of this New Geography post in Firefox I get ” A $15 Minimum Wage Is A Booby Prize For American Workers” but if I do it in Brave I get “A $15 MINIMUM WAGE IS A BOOBY PRIZE FOR AMERICAN WORKERS”
- There’s no drop-down history in the URL bar, and you can’t tab complete entries
- The forward and back buttons don’t really work as a stack, and playing around with them screwed up the browser such that I had to restart.
As you can see, these are mostly quirks. A few UI tweaks and some basic plugins like Flash (which I don’t like but some sites still use), and this thing is good to go.
If you’re interested in giving it a try, download Brave here.
In the meantime, let’s hope the publishers decide to work with Brave to hopefully find a way to create a financial model that both generates cash for the them while also being good for users.
But given their history of opposing innovation, I’m not terribly optimistic.