Former Mozilla CEO explains his Brave new open web browser project
Is Brave the new champion the open web needs?
In checking out the early version of the Brave browser, I found a very Alpha version of Brave, which lacks the visual polish and technical features of the browsers it hopes to push aside in order to save the open web. One thing I will say is that in the small testing I did, Brave seemed to be a lean browser that uses minimal system resources and loads web content quickly, which is not something Firefox and Chrome always achieve.
But I wanted to learn more about this browser, and knowing Brendan from his time at Mozilla, I requested an interview.
Why Brave? Why not Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Opera, or Vivaldi?
Brave is more than a browser, with a connected private cloud service with anonymous ads. As part of this, building our own browser lets us put our best foot forward on speed and deep integration of private ad-tech—extensions would face API and performance limits. This type of innovation is necessary to put users first in ownership and control of their browsing data.
What technical goals do you have for Brave that will set it apart from other web browsers?
Key goals include blocking all third-party tracking and replacing ads depending on such tracking; enforcing HTTPS Everywhere; and fighting fingerprinting used in lieu of or on top of tracking. In general, Brave aims to serve as the base of a user data platform that cleans up the web ecosystem, gives users a fair deal, and helps websites make better revenue than they get via tracking ads. This includes micropayments built into Brave, which in due course could be connected to HTTP's 402 response code as that future standard emerges.
With enough users, we can prove out our approach and standardize the anonymous protocols it uses. We aim to lift the domain of discourse of the Web standards above the low level of cookies, scripts, images, and iframes to talk about ads, impressions, (anonymous) confirmations, etc.
When can we expect Brave to be readily available for download for regular end-users, for desktop and mobile?
We just made the 0.7 release available to our developer community, so we expect to have the consumer version available later this year. Developers can also check out our developer channel for further details.
Are you bootstrapping Brave, or are their investors involved?
Brave recently completed a $2.5-million seed round from private investors.
How long has the team been working on Brave?
The team has been at work since last spring, and more recent additions to the team include Yan Zhu (privacy and security) and Marshall Rose (cloud data).
Brave seems to be forked off Mozilla Firefox's codebase. Will Brave continue to use Mozilla Firefox as an upstream, or diverge as it matures?
We've forked Firefox for iOS and have already diverged the user interface. We expect to diverge more over time.
Why is it important for Brave to be an agent for end-users?
Because gigantic search, operating system, and smartphone companies won't do a great job over time at it—it isn't their primary business. It is ours.
How is Brave approaching privacy for the end-user?
We block third-party cookies whose domains you don't visit as a first party, and other common third-party tracking methods. We will block canvas-based and other fingerprinting techniques. We are productizing the HTTPS Everywhere extension. We will tighten up HTTP Referrer information leaks, as just one example.
These are specifics. Our general approach to privacy is to help restore user trust of first parties (websites you visit directly and knowingly) across the web. We do this by adding defensive measures against third-party and otherwise suspect content, and automating as we go. In due course we contribute what we've learned to web standards groups, so that the problems can be better solved in future standards.
In what way can open source developers get involved with Brave?
Check out brave.com and click on the "Developer Info" button to go to https://brave.com/#devs and see our GitHub links. Our roadmap is at https://brave.com/dev_timeline.html and gives more details on how you can help. We accept pull requests and have already taken over 120 PRs since launching on Wednesday.
I appreciate Brendan taking the time to talk with me for my Open Web column, and it will be interesting to see how Brave does as it matures as a product and becomes available for regular end-users. Brendan is an industry veteran and helped develop technology that is a foundation to the open web, and he co-founded Mozilla Firefox, so there is no doubt about his technical capability to bring innovative products to market. Mozilla has been doing a lot of marketing externally and to its own community about being not only a defender of the open web, but also a personal agent for the end-user. So I was interested to read the blog post by Andreas that says the open web is broken, and that modern browsers—that would include Mozilla Firefox—have basically lost their way and become beholden to advertisers and whoever else pays the bills.