Former Mozilla CEO’s Brave browser blocks ads by default — but substitutes its own

Bravser

Over the last year, ad blockers, ad blocking, and malvertising — malicious advertising served by ad networks — have all been major news. Mozilla’s former CEO, Brandon Eich, has launched a new browser, dubbed Brave, he claims will solve the problem. Unlike Chrome, Edge, or Firefox, Brave is configured by default to block harmful ads, limit cookie-based tracking, and eliminate tracking pixels.

Bravabilities

Mandatory HTTPS and less tracking? Good.

Brave is designed to block so-called “programmatic advertising,” or ads purchased by digital networks, as opposed to deals and content negotiated by humans. In theory, programmatic ad buying increases efficiency and improves results, since the ads are now purchased and bid on by machines with incredibly sophisticated algorithms rather than by fragile meatbags. In practice, as we covered recently, these systems are easily exploited and are sometimes used to distribute malicious code.

Brave: Less a block and more a substitution

Here’s the catch with Brave, though. While Brave’s marketing makes much of blocking malicious advertising, it doesn’t prevent ads from being shown — it just changes what you see. Here’s how Eich describes the system:

Brave browsers block everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising “dirty pipe”, impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals. By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot (so users don’t have to suffer, even a few canaries per screen size-profile, with ad delays and battery draining). We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie.

Instead of seeing whatever ads a publisher has placed on their site, you’ll see Brave’s targeted ads. Brave still uses programmatic advertising, but will partner with specific ad networks that theoretically have better security practices. Brave will return 55% of ad revenue to publishers and give 15% of it to the browsers’ users. Another 15% of the ad revenue goes to the ad network, and Brave presumably keeps the last 15% for itself.

It’s an interesting concept, particularly the part where users receive a cut of the proceeds — but it’s not clear how meaningfully different this approach would be. As we discussed earlier this month, the very nature of programmatic advertising makes it difficult to perform security checks and guarantees. Brave undercuts the ability of websites to control their own digital experiences. While I understand that many users might view that as a good thing, it’s yet another example of a company trying to siphon control and revenue away from the company actually producing the content. There’s a saying: “If all your traffic comes from Facebook, it’s not your traffic.” The same concept applies to Brave and the idea of monetizing the browser in this fashion.

Eich has raised roughly $2.5 million in angel investor funding thus far, and the CEO claims he needs a stable user base of roughly seven million users to prove the system actually works. Right now, there’s no Brave binary executable you can download — the program just hit version 0.7, and you’ll need to be able to compile it if you want to test-drive it. The program is accepting applications for beta testing, but there’s currently a waiting list.

As an experiment, I’d be curious to see how Brave plays out. But I’m not thrilled about the idea of a browser that substitutes its own ads for what’s supposed to be on a page. We’ve seen third-party utilities do this for years — almost always with terrible results. Ad injections like this often harm page formatting or cause rendering issues, and while Eich has pledged to be a good citizen with minimal ads, there’s no guarantee that Brave’s “one-size fits all” advertising system would be sufficient to actually maintain a site.

Ad networks also have little reason to cooperate with the Web browser. From the ad company’s perspective, they’re buying space on a website, then paying Brave again to display the content that should’ve been shown in the first place.

Former Mozilla CEO’s Brave browser blocks ads by default — but substitutes its own

Over the last year, ad blockers, ad blocking, and malvertising — malicious advertising served by ad networks — have all been major news. Mozilla’s former CEO, Brandon Eich, has launched a new browser, dubbed Brave, he claims will solve the problem. Unlike Chrome, Edge, or Firefox, Brave is configured by default to block harmful ads, limit cookie-based tracking, and eliminate tracking pixels.

Bravabilities

Mandatory HTTPS and less tracking? Good.

Brave is designed to block so-called “programmatic advertising,” or ads purchased by digital networks, as opposed to deals and content negotiated by humans. In theory, programmatic ad buying increases efficiency and improves results, since the ads are now purchased and bid on by machines with incredibly sophisticated algorithms rather than by fragile meatbags. In practice, as we covered recently, these systems are easily exploited and are sometimes used to distribute malicious code.

Brave: Less a block and more a substitution

Here’s the catch with Brave, though. While Brave’s marketing makes much of blocking malicious advertising, it doesn’t prevent ads from being shown — it just changes what you see. Here’s how Eich describes the system:

Brave browsers block everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising “dirty pipe”, impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals. By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot (so users don’t have to suffer, even a few canaries per screen size-profile, with ad delays and battery draining). We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie.

Instead of seeing whatever ads a publisher has placed on their site, you’ll see Brave’s targeted ads. Brave still uses programmatic advertising, but will partner with specific ad networks that theoretically have better security practices. Brave will return 55% of ad revenue to publishers and give 15% of it to the browsers’ users. Another 15% of the ad revenue goes to the ad network, and Brave presumably keeps the last 15% for itself.

It’s an interesting concept, particularly the part where users receive a cut of the proceeds — but it’s not clear how meaningfully different this approach would be. As we discussed earlier this month, the very nature of programmatic advertising makes it difficult to perform security checks and guarantees. Brave undercuts the ability of websites to control their own digital experiences. While I understand that many users might view that as a good thing, it’s yet another example of a company trying to siphon control and revenue away from the company actually producing the content. There’s a saying: “If all your traffic comes from Facebook, it’s not your traffic.” The same concept applies to Brave and the idea of monetizing the browser in this fashion.

Eich has raised roughly $2.5 million in angel investor funding thus far, and the CEO claims he needs a stable user base of roughly seven million users to prove the system actually works. Right now, there’s no Brave binary executable you can download — the program just hit version 0.7, and you’ll need to be able to compile it if you want to test-drive it. The program is accepting applications for beta testing, but there’s currently a waiting list.

As an experiment, I’d be curious to see how Brave plays out. But I’m not thrilled about the idea of a browser that substitutes its own ads for what’s supposed to be on a page. We’ve seen third-party utilities do this for years — almost always with terrible results. Ad injections like this often harm page formatting or cause rendering issues, and while Eich has pledged to be a good citizen with minimal ads, there’s no guarantee that Brave’s “one-size fits all” advertising system would be sufficient to actually maintain a site.

Ad networks also have little reason to cooperate with the Web browser. From the ad company’s perspective, they’re buying space on a website, then paying Brave again to display the content that should’ve been shown in the first place.

Former Mozilla CEO’s Brave browser blocks ads by default — but substitutes its own

Over the last year, ad blockers, ad blocking, and malvertising — malicious advertising served by ad networks — have all been major news. Mozilla’s former CEO, Brandon Eich, has launched a new browser, dubbed Brave, he claims will solve the problem. Unlike Chrome, Edge, or Firefox, Brave is configured by default to block harmful ads, limit cookie-based tracking, and eliminate tracking pixels.

Bravabilities

Mandatory HTTPS and less tracking? Good.

Brave is designed to block so-called “programmatic advertising,” or ads purchased by digital networks, as opposed to deals and content negotiated by humans. In theory, programmatic ad buying increases efficiency and improves results, since the ads are now purchased and bid on by machines with incredibly sophisticated algorithms rather than by fragile meatbags. In practice, as we covered recently, these systems are easily exploited and are sometimes used to distribute malicious code.

Brave: Less a block and more a substitution

Here’s the catch with Brave, though. While Brave’s marketing makes much of blocking malicious advertising, it doesn’t prevent ads from being shown — it just changes what you see. Here’s how Eich describes the system:

Brave browsers block everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising “dirty pipe”, impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals. By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot (so users don’t have to suffer, even a few canaries per screen size-profile, with ad delays and battery draining). We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie.

Instead of seeing whatever ads a publisher has placed on their site, you’ll see Brave’s targeted ads. Brave still uses programmatic advertising, but will partner with specific ad networks that theoretically have better security practices. Brave will return 55% of ad revenue to publishers and give 15% of it to the browsers’ users. Another 15% of the ad revenue goes to the ad network, and Brave presumably keeps the last 15% for itself.

It’s an interesting concept, particularly the part where users receive a cut of the proceeds — but it’s not clear how meaningfully different this approach would be. As we discussed earlier this month, the very nature of programmatic advertising makes it difficult to perform security checks and guarantees. Brave undercuts the ability of websites to control their own digital experiences. While I understand that many users might view that as a good thing, it’s yet another example of a company trying to siphon control and revenue away from the company actually producing the content. There’s a saying: “If all your traffic comes from Facebook, it’s not your traffic.” The same concept applies to Brave and the idea of monetizing the browser in this fashion.

Eich has raised roughly $2.5 million in angel investor funding thus far, and the CEO claims he needs a stable user base of roughly seven million users to prove the system actually works. Right now, there’s no Brave binary executable you can download — the program just hit version 0.7, and you’ll need to be able to compile it if you want to test-drive it. The program is accepting applications for beta testing, but there’s currently a waiting list.

As an experiment, I’d be curious to see how Brave plays out. But I’m not thrilled about the idea of a browser that substitutes its own ads for what’s supposed to be on a page. We’ve seen third-party utilities do this for years — almost always with terrible results. Ad injections like this often harm page formatting or cause rendering issues, and while Eich has pledged to be a good citizen with minimal ads, there’s no guarantee that Brave’s “one-size fits all” advertising system would be sufficient to actually maintain a site.

Ad networks also have little reason to cooperate with the Web browser. From the ad company’s perspective, they’re buying space on a website, then paying Brave again to display the content that should’ve been shown in the first place.

Ad blocking for the masses, part one: uBlock Origin

ublockorigin_featured

The year 2015 may someday be remembered as when web-based ad blocking went mainstream. So in an effort to cover the latest developments, we’ll take a look at state-of-the-art ad blocking in a three-part series of posts. First, let’s take a look at the browser add-on that inspired this concept: uBlock Origin.

uBlock Origin is an highly configurable browser extension that blocks third party advertising, trackers, and malware sites. You will find that most sites render noticeable faster with ads and trackers turned off. And, in some cases, web pages that were not rendering at all previous will look great with all the offending components blocked.

ublockorigin_settings_3rdpartyfilters

It does this by using well maintained filter lists including EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Peter Lowe’s Ad server list, and Malware Domain list. You can also choose to add other third party filters by choosing them from the “3rd-party filters” list in its settings page. You can see what the uBlock Origin is doing with a specific web page by viewing its dynamic log.

Turning off filtering for a website is as simple as clicking on the big blue button in uBlock Origin’s pull down window. And, you can permanently unblock a site by adding it to a Whitelist that can be edited right in the browser.

If you want to reverse the way uBlock Origin works, take a look at its Dynamic filtering: turn off uBlock everywhere except how-to page. This whitelists all websites and lets you choose which sites will have its ads blocked. I plan to whitelist sites one-at-a-time, though.

ublockorigin_settings

If you want to micro-tweak the add-on, take a look at its Advanced user features information. But, as its author says, “Enable at your own risk.”

uBlock Origin is a fast, lightweight, and free add-on that works in some of the most popular desktop browsers in use today (with the exception of Microsoft’s Explorer and Edge browsers). It doesn’t require any technical skill to install or use. And, for those with some technical knowledge, it is highly configurable. And, most importantly for me, it lets me whitelist sites I want to support while blocking some of those one-off web page visits based on links from Google News, Twitter, and Facebook.

ublock_origin_button

You can find the add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera using the links below. While the version for Opera is named uBlock, its author is listed as “gorhill” (Raymond Hill) and has an update date that is in line with the other versions. Note that uBlock Origin was removed from Google’s Chrome Store earlier this year (Ref: ghacks.net), so we should all be grateful that Google reversed its decision. You can find uBlock Origin in Chrome add-onFirefox, and Opera versions.

In part two of this series, we’ll take a look at the recently released AdBlock Browser for Android and iOS. And, in part three, we’ll investigate Apple’s new facility for content-blocking Safari extensions in iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad.

Ad blocking for the masses, part one: uBlock Origin

The year 2015 may someday be remembered as when web-based ad blocking went mainstream. So in an effort to cover the latest developments, we’ll take a look at state-of-the-art ad blocking in a three-part series of posts. First, let’s take a look at the browser add-on that inspired this concept: uBlock Origin.

uBlock Origin is an highly configurable browser extension that blocks third party advertising, trackers, and malware sites. You will find that most sites render noticeable faster with ads and trackers turned off. And, in some cases, web pages that were not rendering at all previous will look great with all the offending components blocked.

ublockorigin_settings_3rdpartyfilters

It does this by using well maintained filter lists including EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Peter Lowe’s Ad server list, and Malware Domain list. You can also choose to add other third party filters by choosing them from the “3rd-party filters” list in its settings page. You can see what the uBlock Origin is doing with a specific web page by viewing its dynamic log.

Turning off filtering for a website is as simple as clicking on the big blue button in uBlock Origin’s pull down window. And, you can permanently unblock a site by adding it to a Whitelist that can be edited right in the browser.

If you want to reverse the way uBlock Origin works, take a look at its Dynamic filtering: turn off uBlock everywhere except how-to page. This whitelists all websites and lets you choose which sites will have its ads blocked. I plan to whitelist sites one-at-a-time, though.

ublockorigin_settings

If you want to micro-tweak the add-on, take a look at its Advanced user features information. But, as its author says, “Enable at your own risk.”

uBlock Origin is a fast, lightweight, and free add-on that works in some of the most popular desktop browsers in use today (with the exception of Microsoft’s Explorer and Edge browsers). It doesn’t require any technical skill to install or use. And, for those with some technical knowledge, it is highly configurable. And, most importantly for me, it lets me whitelist sites I want to support while blocking some of those one-off web page visits based on links from Google News, Twitter, and Facebook.

ublock_origin_button

You can find the add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera using the links below. While the version for Opera is named uBlock, its author is listed as “gorhill” (Raymond Hill) and has an update date that is in line with the other versions. Note that uBlock Origin was removed from Google’s Chrome Store earlier this year (Ref: ghacks.net), so we should all be grateful that Google reversed its decision. You can find uBlock Origin in Chrome add-onFirefox, and Opera versions.

In part two of this series, we’ll take a look at the recently released AdBlock Browser for Android and iOS. And, in part three, we’ll investigate Apple’s new facility for content-blocking Safari extensions in iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad.

Ad blocking for the masses, part one: uBlock Origin

The year 2015 may someday be remembered as when web-based ad blocking went mainstream. So in an effort to cover the latest developments, we’ll take a look at state-of-the-art ad blocking in a three-part series of posts. First, let’s take a look at the browser add-on that inspired this concept: uBlock Origin.

uBlock Origin is an highly configurable browser extension that blocks third party advertising, trackers, and malware sites. You will find that most sites render noticeable faster with ads and trackers turned off. And, in some cases, web pages that were not rendering at all previous will look great with all the offending components blocked.

ublockorigin_settings_3rdpartyfilters

It does this by using well maintained filter lists including EasyList, EasyPrivacy, Peter Lowe’s Ad server list, and Malware Domain list. You can also choose to add other third party filters by choosing them from the “3rd-party filters” list in its settings page. You can see what the uBlock Origin is doing with a specific web page by viewing its dynamic log.

Turning off filtering for a website is as simple as clicking on the big blue button in uBlock Origin’s pull down window. And, you can permanently unblock a site by adding it to a Whitelist that can be edited right in the browser.

If you want to reverse the way uBlock Origin works, take a look at its Dynamic filtering: turn off uBlock everywhere except how-to page. This whitelists all websites and lets you choose which sites will have its ads blocked. I plan to whitelist sites one-at-a-time, though.

ublockorigin_settings

If you want to micro-tweak the add-on, take a look at its Advanced user features information. But, as its author says, “Enable at your own risk.”

uBlock Origin is a fast, lightweight, and free add-on that works in some of the most popular desktop browsers in use today (with the exception of Microsoft’s Explorer and Edge browsers). It doesn’t require any technical skill to install or use. And, for those with some technical knowledge, it is highly configurable. And, most importantly for me, it lets me whitelist sites I want to support while blocking some of those one-off web page visits based on links from Google News, Twitter, and Facebook.

ublock_origin_button

You can find the add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera using the links below. While the version for Opera is named uBlock, its author is listed as “gorhill” (Raymond Hill) and has an update date that is in line with the other versions. Note that uBlock Origin was removed from Google’s Chrome Store earlier this year (Ref: ghacks.net), so we should all be grateful that Google reversed its decision. You can find uBlock Origin in Chrome add-onFirefox, and Opera versions.

In part two of this series, we’ll take a look at the recently released AdBlock Browser for Android and iOS. And, in part three, we’ll investigate Apple’s new facility for content-blocking Safari extensions in iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad.