Brave Browser 1.0 is here to take on Google Chrome

The Brave browser recently hit the 1.0 release, meaning it should be stable enough for most folks to use. It also signaled a massive new PR campaign by the folks over at Brave. Is it worth switching from Chrome or Firefox? Let’s take a look at the somewhat controversial browser. 

The Chrome team sent a cake to the Brave team congratulating them on their 1.0 release

A little history

The Brave browser was first launched in 2016, created by Brian Bondy and Brendan Eich. You aren’t expected to know these names, but Brendan Eich in particular is worth noting. He is the creator of the javascript language that is basically all over the web. He’s also the co-creator of the Mozilla project which ultimately lead to Firefox. Brendan is also extremely active on Twitter, where you can seem him dealing directly with users that have problems with Brave.

The old Brave UI, originally an electron app, codenamed “Muon”

Making a long story short, development on the Brave browser was slow and steady, but not fast enough to satisfy the developers themselves. At the end of 2018, Brave switched from its custom Electron app to being built on top of Chromium (the open source version of Chrome) plus additional enhancements. 

Why Brave browser?

Brave browser prides itself on being a privacy-focused browser out of the box as well as focused on performance as a result of the built-in tracker and ad blockers. Some people have argued that Firefox is the better privacy browser with the right configuration, but I like to judge browsers based on their “out of the box” or default settings.

A comparison chart of privacy features of browsers out of the box

As it stands now, Brave performs similarly to Chrome, if not faster. While not an exhaustive list, the developers have a page [Deviations from Chromium] detailing what has been removed or enhanced to their browser compared to Chromium/Chrome. For anyone questioning why go with Brave over a standard Chromium install, be sure to check this list.

What Brave brings to the table

While there are other browsers out there that ship with a built-in ad blocker (Opera), Brave has a unique take on blocking ads. See, by default Brave will block trackers, ads, etc. There is one big asterisk here, though. It blocks THIRD-PARTY ads, but not necessarily first party ones. This means you would still see ads on Reddit.com for example because their ads are served through their own network and not a third party. 

In my experience, this has not been much of an issue unless you’re the type of person that absolutely wants to see zero ads when they surf. If that’s the case, allow me to talk about my next point.

Full support for Chrome extensions

Because the Brave browser is built on Chromium, that means it can take full advantage of the Chrome extension store. Any extensions you currently rely on in Google Chrome you can safely use in Brave. If you’re coming from Firefox, there’s a good chance you can find extensions that have the same functionality.

Performance

This browser is a screamer. And by that, I mean it feels light and fast. I’ve tested various other browsers (Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Firefox) and none of them match the speed of Brave. I have a rather old laptop that I use at my work with 4 GB of ram and a pretty old Intel core i5 processor. While most modern machines are all fast enough for anything you throw at them, it’s interesting to see the performance of software on machines with less beefy specs. You can really see how optimized or unoptimized some programs are.

Speed test with Brave browser 1.0

One of the benefits of the ad blocker built into the browser is it is faster than any ad blocking extension you could install. This is because the blocker itself is written in the Rust programming language and is much, much faster than anything else.

Shields and Security

At the end of the address/URL bar is the Brave icon, which brings up your “shields” that show you which protections are activated and what has been blocked. You can toggle certain options on or off if a site gives you issues. When I first started using Brave in mid 2019, I often had to turn off shields to get some sites to work correctly. However, the more people report on web compatibility issues with the shield settings on Brave software’s forums, the better the shields become at not breaking sites. It’s pretty rare these days that I have to toggle something, but they do happen.

Brave shields showing what was blocked on the site USA Today

Because this browser is built on Chromium, you can rest assured that any security vulnerabilities that are found and patched in Chrome/Chromium will also be patched in Brave the next day or so. The dev team has been especially good about getting their security updates out as soon as possible.

A radical take on advertising

Wait, what? Doesn’t Brave have an ad blocker? What’s this about ads, then? Brave is a privacy-focused browser, but it also has a “rewards” system that allows users to opt in and get paid to accept advertisement notifications. Payments come in the form of a cryptocurrency known as the Basic Attention Token, or BAT for short. 

Basic Attention Tokens, or BAT is being promoted as the next way to support the web and content creators

Once you have some BAT, you can then tip users or websites on the web as a form of support. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could directly support your favorite content creators or sites? The folks over at Brave believe this could be the future of advertising and lead to a safer, cleaner web devoid of malicious ads or ads that track you across the web. Whether they will succeed remains to be seen. For older people or non-advanced users, I highly recommend not turning on the rewards system. 

Where Brave falls flat

Brave almost has everything in place to be an excellent alternative to Chrome or other browsers. However, let’s talk about one of its biggest weaknesses as of the 1.0 release: the syncing feature. One great feature in Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, and Opera is the ability to sync. This usually lets you sync passwords and bookmarks across devices or to your account. The sync feature in Brave currently only does bookmarks and not passwords. I know this is a deal breaker for many people if they can’t sync their extensions and passwords. I ended up turning to Bit Warden, a third party password manager for syncing of passwords on my devices.

Looks simple enough, but the sync code system and reliability needs work

The sync feature in Brave is an unreliable mess and should have been labeled beta or removed until it’s more stable. I personally used the feature between 3-5 different machines and during my usage period I was constantly encountering duplicate bookmarks, folders, and deleted bookmarks coming back to life. I’m not alone, there are countless posts on the Brave subreddit and forum. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, I like Brave and think it’s on its way to becoming one of the top choices for a browser. I currently use it daily at home and work, but the unreliable sync feature has resulted in me farming out bookmarking duties to lists on Google Keep until it gets fixed. 

Other than that, the browser is clean, fast, and available for most OSes and devices. This includes Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. Give it a download and let me know what you think!

And now you

How do you feel about the newcomer Brave? Happy with Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, or Opera? Let me know in the comments your ultimate browser setup!

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