Brave new browser: Eich returns with Chromium browser that replaces ads

The former head of Mozilla has returned to the browser game with Brave, a Chromium-based browser paired with a private cloud that replaces ads found on websites.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Brave is a browser that arrives with tracking protection, ad block, and HTTPS Everywhere built-in, but rather than simply blocking all ads on the web, the browser relies on a private cloud that could replace exiting website ads with ones that Brave claims are anonymous, and better suited to users.

Taking up the position of president and CEO, Brave marks the return of Brendan Eich to the browser market after the JavaScript creator resigned following a brief stint as CEO of Mozilla in April 2014.

"Brave browsers block everything: initial signalling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising 'dirty pipe', impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals," Eich wrote on the Brave site. "By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot (so users don't have to suffer, even a few canaries per screen size-profile, with ad delays and battery draining)."

"We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie."

Despite Eich's Mozilla roots, Brave is based on the Google-backed Chromium browser, with the source code to company's open source browser and cloud service available on GitHub.

Former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal said in a blog post the web is broken, with current browser vendors unwilling to tackle the dilemma of blocking ads, while looking at alternative mechanisms for funding content.

"It's hard to blame them. How do you disrupt the status quo without sawing off the (ad revenue) branch you are sitting on?" Gal wrote.

"I think it's unlikely that the incumbent browser vendors will make any bold moves to solve this mess. There is too much money at stake. I am excited to see a startup take a swipe at this problem, because they have little to lose (seed money aside)."

Gal said it was ironic Brave was a for-profit operation that can make money from reducing advertising.

"If Brave succeeds, it's going to drain money away from the crappy privacy-invasive obnoxious advertisement world we have today, and publishers and sites will start transacting in the new Brave world that is regulated by the user agent," he said. "Brave will take a cut of these transactions. And I think this is key. It aligns the incentives right."

"The current funding structure of major browsers encourages them to keep things as they are. Brave's incentive is to bring down the whole diseased temple and usher in a better web."

The choice of using Google's Blink rendering engine over Mozilla's Gecko would help the browser "hide" and make it harder to be blocked by sites looking to engage in ad-blocking blocking games, Gal said.

"Brave for iOS seems to be a fork of Firefox for iOS, but it manages to block ads (Mozilla says they can't)."

The Brave browser is able to be installed on Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android.

Speaking on Hacker News, Eich said that Brave is working on a micro-payments channel to users who would pay to see no ads.

"Other users ... will be able to mix and match, too: better and more private ads on sites they don't support, with a revenue share to these users that they can spend on sites they do," Eich said.

"We do see ads as a necessary funding model for much of the web today. I would love to see micropayments replace ads. Let's see what can be done."

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