Brave: A New Open-Source, Mobile-First, Privacy-Oriented Browser

Woman mobile browsing on phone

Today saw the launch of a new open source mobile browser entry, Brave, from a famous name in the web browser industry, Brendan Eich, formerly of Mozilla/Netscape and inventor of JavaScript. Brave is positioned as an open source, mobile-first, privacy-oriented browser. The current mobile environment looks like:

  • Proprietary WebKit browsers own the mobile web today at 88.47% market share, with Safari at 36.25%, Chrome at 40.83%, and the Android Browser (pre-Jelly Bean) at 11.39% [www.NetMarketShare.com]
  • The mobile open source leader is Opera Mini with 5.96% market share, but Opera uses WebKit. [ibid]
  • The open source leader overall, Firefox, which formerly had the Gecko engine, but now also uses WebKit on mobile, has shrunk to only 12.13% market share across all device types, mainly because of their sub-1% share of mobile devices. [ibid]

A new open source mobile browser provides new opportunities: 

  • The web was built by trial and error: (Do you remember Java applets?) The Internet Explorer – Netscape slugfest saw lots of innovation at the start of the web; Safari launched a number of web browser firsts when Apple made their own browser. Bad ideas can be tested and found wanting; good ideas can be universally adopted; with another browser, new ideas get the oxygen and screen time to be developed, tested, and judged. 
  • With Apple moving toward secured communication as the norm in iOS 9, a new browser that gains traction gives every Internet user benefits in new ideas for security and privacy online.
  • We don’t know yet what specific technology will be used, but Microsoft has recently open-sourced ChakraCore, the IE/Edge JavaScript engine. The Google Chrome V8 JavaScript engine was a giant leap forward in browser JavaScript performance, so diversity in JavaScript engines has a history of serving the user well. Early benchmarks suggest that Brave is highly performance-oriented, so, we can look forward to faster, snappier web page loading and interactions.
  • Mobile continues to be a memory- and storage-restricted platform, so, following that old programming dictum – if you can make the code run fast on inferior hardware, it’s going to scream on good hardware. There are real engineering challenges in reproducing the desktop experience for the user on mobile, and so the Brave team plus their open source community will be more hands working on these problems.

And, of course, the cost side: if it gains traction, software makers and website owners will be adding it to the test suite. Fortunately, with their pledge to embrace open standards, this should be more boon than burden to web users, mobile and desktop.

 

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