With the increasing number of privacy scandals, leaks of information, and other creepy “features” implemented by websites, the average customer is increasingly worried about the data collected from them and what the companies decide to do with it. In these times 1984-esque times we live in, Brave offers a browsing experience without ads, trackers, and fingerprinting.
Developer: Brave Software
After accepting the Terms of Service and Privacy Notice, Brave takes you right into the action and shows you the homescreen. If you feel like the interface looks similar to Google Chrome, it is because Brave is also based on the open-source Chromium project. Brave tries to combine the simplicity, power, and speed from Chromium with security features such as an ad-blocker, tracking protection, enhanced security, and optimizations for consuming less data and battery life.
On the top bar, there is a home icon that (unsurprisingly) takes you to the home page. The address bar works exactly like in Chrome, acting also as a search bar. There’s also a button that lets you see your open tabs, taking you to a screen that resembles what you get when you tap on the Recents button on the navigation bar on your Android device (if you manufacturer hasn’t tampered with it).
The Brave Button
The one interface element that differs from Google Chrome is the Brave button. Upon tapping it you will get information about the additional security measures put in place by Brave. It will show you the number of ads and trackers blocked, HTTPS upgrades (explained in a moment), the number of scripts blocked, and fingerprint methods intercepted.
You can also deactivate all the previously mentioned shields, or do it separately. Block Ads & Tracking, Block 3rd party cookies, and Block Scripts are self-explanatory. HTTPS upgrades is a new functionality in which Brave determines if a site you are browsing under the HTTP protocol has the more secure HTTPS version available. If it does, then it automatically redirects you to ensure you are always navigating securely when it is possible.
Fingerprinting is a little more complex. The process involves taking information from several sources, such as your IP, country, hardware information, and other similar parameters, and making a fingerprint that allows companies to track your movements across different websites. Brave tries to prevent this by blocking well-known methods of fingerprinting, such as canvas and WebGL. You can read more about it here.
Inside the Overflow
An overflow button lets you go to a bunch of different options, which are all expected if you come from Chrome. Well-known features such as bookmarks, history, downloads, find in page, adding a site to the homescreen, and downloads are all available, thanks to its Chromium roots.
There is a private mode as well, in which the Brave filters and shields still keep working. Inside it, Brave prompts you to switch search engines from Google (which is the default) to DuckDuckGo, a safer alternative that does not track your movements.
Brave behaves and performs exactly like you would expect from a browser in 2018. Granted, I do all of my tests in a Samsung Galaxy S8, but I also have a Galaxy J5 2017 at hand and it performed wonderfully there as well. Launching the app is within the normal range of apps in both devices.
Sites load fast, scrolling is smooth, and content hardly suffers from any of the built-in protections. It even adopts the navigation bar coloring feature, in which it automatically changes colors based on the site you are browsing. There is no problem watching YouTube videos or streaming content. Because of the numerous shields that Brave has implemented, sites, in theory, should be even faster to load than other alternatives like Chrome and Firefox.
On the overflow menu, you will find the Settings button. Inside, you will find options to change the default engine, to save passwords, autofill, notifications, and accessibility. These are rather unchanged from Chrome. The one where the Brave team focused the most is in the privacy option. Here you will also be able to turn off a plethora of options that you can also do from the Brave button, such as tracking protection and ad blocking. However, this will do it on a browser level, not on a page level. There is also an option to turn off regional ads.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find a way of activating some kind of syncing of bookmarks between devices. With the big players such as Firefox, Chrome, and Opera offering syncing across devices, it is a glaring omission that could force some power users to look elsewhere.
In an era where every company seems to track your movements everywhere you go, Brave comes to the rescue and tries to mitigate the dangers of browsing the web. The fact that something like this exists is sad, to be honest. However, knowing that there are companies that are still committed to privacy give us a glimmer of hope.
As websites constantly test the patience of its users and cram ads, pop-ups and auto-playing videos, ad blocking has become more and more popular. However, as a site that depends on ads as a source of income, we encourage you to turn them off for sites that you rely on and don’t annoy you. Regardless, if you are looking for a browser that gives you more control on the sites you visit, even with some omissions on their part, Brave is one of the top-notch alternatives on the Play store.