JavaScript daddy's Brave ad-blocker hits Android, Apple stores

Web idealist tips micropayments at ad-shifters

An open-source browser capable of blocking annoying mobile ads is available for download from the Apple and Google stores.

Called Brave, it’s the work of JavaScript daddy Brendan Eich and his new firm Brave Software.

Brave hit Apple’s iPhones and iPads last week and is reported to have landed on Google’s Play for Android only after Google blocked it.

The presence of Brave on Android could pose a particular problem for Google, whose entire business model is predicated on advertising.

This would be Google’s second recent case of banning then retreating on the presence of ad-blocking ware in its store.

In early February, it reversed its ban on Rocketship’s AdsBlock Fast, pre-installed with Samsung’s Android phone’s browser, on appeal from Rocketship.

With Brave, it’s not so much that the browser blocks all ads - which you can set it to do - rather that Brave wants to usher you into a sweet spot where you, the device user, are on the receiving end only of ads deemed most relevant.

Heard that all before? Read on.

Brave reckons it can block those ads that are vomited across the mighty halls of the web by the kinds of sprawling ads networks that are fed by more cookies than a certain star of Sesame St and resident of The Furchester Hotel.

This is intended to protect user’s privacy, save screen space and block the spread of malware masquerading as advertising – malvertising.

Having an ad-blocking browser ensconced in two of the mobile web’s most trafficked stores follows the decision by Three Italy and Three UK, both owned by CK Hutchison Holdings, to install ad-blocking at the other end of the mobile web: the network itself. Three has installed ad-blocking on its UK and Italian networks from Shine Technologies.

Brave works at the device level. It generates tags based on your browsing that it then shares with a company called Sonobi, which matches ads to these tags. Sonobi was founded in 2011 and has $10m in VC funding.

Brave stresses that advertisers don’t get to see your tags or anything that could identify you as a user.

You do have the option to turn off ad-matching and go for total ad-blocking.

But, if ads are blocked, or limited, how does Brave plan to make money? After all, the mighty browser-makers of Mountain View and Redmond stay in business not by making cash off their browsers but by using other lines of business. Specifically, the very same ads networks used to deliver ads.

Brave plans a wallet that you will top up and that then use to divvy out micro payments to websites. As for website owners, they also get a wallet - into which Brave will deposit a share of revenue from the ads that performed on their sites plus those micropayments.

Eich’s firm will employ Bitcoin using BitGo’s wallets and services.

Brave the browser is not finished – it is currently at release 0.7. The company was only founded in November 2015 but Eich is a veteran of browsers.

Aside from inventing JavaScript, his history includes having been co-founder of Firefox shop Mozilla, where he also served very briefly as chief executive in 2014 before forced out over his opposition to gay marriage in the US state of California.

Whether all this makes a dent is another matter. Privacy fans will install Brave, so the browser will likely find a ready constituency of passionate end users.

But convincing advertisers to change behaviour for wallets and micropayments?

Eich’s credentials as a technologist and believer in the privacy of the netizen online unimpeachable: he founded Mozilla, which gave us the first browser to give users Do Not Track, which Microsoft and Google were dragged into supporting.

A belief in what’s right and decent don’t drive web behaviour or re-orientate whole industries, though - as Mozilla has found to its cost.

Marketplace was Mozilla’s store for developers building mobile apps using open web standards, not the native straight-jacket needed for iOS or Android. Fine idea, but late last year Mozilla said the Marketplace is being end-of-lifed.

Firefox OS was the smartphone web operating system alternative to iOS and Android. The target audience: telcos, independent handset-makers and consumers tired of being controlled from Silicon Valley.

But that dream, too, is over: Firefox OS has been sidelined into an embedded operating system for internet TVs. Development of the smartphone operating system itself ends in May, after Firefox OS 2.6.

And as for DNT: for all that W3C lobbying, ad networks still stalk us – possibly because most end users don’t know DNT exists as an option in the browser but, equally possibly, because they don’t care enough to do more than grumble. ®

Sponsored: Minds Mastering Machines - Call for papers now open

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018