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New open-source ad-blocking web browser emerges from brain of ex-Mozilla boss Eich

Former Firefox head honcho takes a Brave stance

A new open-source browser that blocks ads and tracking code and so promises to "fix the Web" by offering a faster, privacy-respecting experience has been released.

The Brave browser is the brainchild of former Mozilla (Firefox) CEO and JavaScript inventor Brendan Eich, and version 0.7 is now available to developers on GitHub.

Brave is built on top of open-source browser Chromium – which Google uses as the foundation for its Chrome browser – and claims to be between 1.5 and 4 times faster than competitors by stripping out not just ads, but also all the tracking code that lives in abundance on most ad-supported websites.

"Up to a whopping 60 per cent of page load time is caused by the underlying ad technology that loads into various places each time you hit a page on your favorite news site," says the company, next to a graphic showing load times. "And 20 per cent of this is time spent on loading things that are trying to learn more about you."

The reason people are interested in Brave, however, and why it received $2.5m in funding late last year, is because it is attempting a different approach to ads.

"We are a browser-based ad-tech platform, with high precision and privacy," Eich wrote in a blog post outlining his company's vision. "Brave is the only approach to the Web that puts users first in ownership and control of their browsing data by blocking trackers by default, with no exceptions."

Rather than simply acting as an ad blocker, the company hopes to provide a more nuanced approach. It recognizes that many websites are reliant on advertising in order to provide their content for free, so it is planning to utilize a user's browsing history to fit them into standard advertising segments – and then provide that segment information to websites and advertisers.

Faster when you strip out ads and tracking code, says Brave

The idea is that advertisers will still be able to reach users but they won't have the same depth of information on an individual user. Nor will Brave. The result, in theory, is greater control over privacy and none of those ads for products you recently looked at that make you feel as though you are being watched.

Of course, to make that approach work, Brave would act as a gatekeeper and take a cut of the ad money, which is what would fund the company. The company hasn't said how much of a cut it would ask for and of course, the entire approach requires that there be a significant number of Brave users.

To be viable, the company would need to become more popular than Opera (with 1.5 per cent of the browser market) and on a par with Safari (3.7 per cent). And that means between five to ten million users.

As for putting users in control, the browser contains a "bravery" menu that allows you to turn off its blocking features for individual websites. Its mindset is revealed in the options "Stay ad supported on this site" and "Give back to this site," although whether those options will make sense to users is another question.

Since it is a 0.7 version release, the browser is still being developed. It doesn't, for example, have bookmarks or a history section. Nor preferences. But those will no doubt be added in time for the full public 1.0 release. Otherwise it feels pretty much like Google's Chrome running an ad blocker plugin. ®

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