Better understanding Brave Browser's content blocker

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 13, 2023
Updated • Jan 13, 2023
Brave
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A recent thread on Reddit resulted in a heated discussion about Brave Browser's content blocking and the company's dual-role as a browser maker and ad-tech company. The thread starter criticized Brave Browser for displaying the company's own ads on Brave Search in the Firefox subreddit.

brave default blocking

Brave Search is the default search in Brave Browser. It is developed by Brave Software Inc, just like the browser. When you visit a Brave Search result in Brave, you may see an ad unit at the top of default. Shields, Brave's content blocking and privacy protection feature, is enabled by default in the browser, but ads are shown.

This may be confusing to some users. To better understand Brave's content blocking feature, it is important to understand the differences between the three available Brave Shield modes.

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Brave uses the standard tracker and ad blocking mode by default. Users may change the mode for individual sites with a click on the Shield icon in the Brave toolbar or for all sites on the brave://settings/shields settings page.

brave configure shields

The two other modes, aggressive and disabled, change the functionality significantly.

One of the most important differences between standard and aggressive blocking modes is that the former does not block first-party ads.

Most advertisement on the Internet is third-party based. Sites embed scripts from companies like Google on their websites to display advertisement and earn revenue from the ads. The technology and ads are provided by the third-party. Tracking is a bigger problem when it comes to third-party ads as well.

First-party ads are different, as no third-party connections are involved. A basic example is a text ad with a link displayed on a website. It loads no third-party content and is therefore considered a first-party ad. Brave's standard blocking mode does not remove these from any Internet site.

This means, that Brave handles Brave Search like any other website that displays first-party ads. These are not blocked in the default Shields configuration. Users may switch to the aggressive mode in the Brave settings to block first-party ads as well on all sites.

Closing Words

Many Internet sites rely on advertising revenue, but revenue is falling because of several factors. More and more publishers move towards a subscription-based model for revenue because of that, and there does not seem to be an end in sight.

To put it differently: Brave Browser, and many other products, including Firefox, would probably not exist without Internet advertising.

First-party ads are still ads, but they are not as invasive and often also not as taxing as third-party ads. They load faster, as no third-party connections are made, and there is less or even no tracking involved.

Now You: do you use a content blocker? Built-in a browser or standalone?

Summary
Better understanding Brave Browser's content blocker
Article Name
Better understanding Brave Browser's content blocker
Description
Find out why Brave Browser is not blocking some ads on the Internet by default, and how to change that.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anonymous said on January 13, 2023 at 7:09 am
    Reply

    That setting is fairly easy to work out. Keep it up you’ll start getting feedback like Shaun from those who think his articles are are too easy for them ?

  2. Elvis Presley said on January 13, 2023 at 8:24 am
    Reply

    Since I started using it, Brave is my sole favorite. It does everything better out of the box than any other browser, except for those that specialize in certain categories (i.e. Tor provides better anonymity, but lacks in privacy, functionality and speed).

    And as it’s written the Aggressive Shields mode makes you see no ads anywhere. I haven’t.

    In these times the only reason to use Chrome is it’s Google account synchronization feature, to which there are alternatives too.

  3. Mike said on January 13, 2023 at 8:31 am
    Reply

    I like content blockers, and I like Brave. These days I make it appoint to stay as far away from the big companies in IT, and also the abusive ones as possible.

    As an end-user Brave hasn’t done anything shady like installing random extensions without permission yet, like their competitors have, so they’re still good guys in my book.

    1. Wimbledon Womble said on January 14, 2023 at 2:54 pm
      Reply

      It’s understandable that an advertising company that puts out a browser, is going to prioritize their revenue. They know that most users will not change to aggressive mode, and be served first party ads at will

      Never forget, you are the product – you will be monetized

      Just use uBlock Origin which works best in Firefox

  4. Tom Hawack said on January 13, 2023 at 1:47 pm
    Reply

    “Brave Browser, and many other products, including Firefox, would probably not exist without Internet advertising.”

    Advertisement has always been a nightmare here but intellectually acceptable and accepted. After all the principle, basically, is to promote one’s work. Very basically. But when ads become excessive, when they get corrupted by malvertisement and tracking then the reaction process is no longer “intellectual”, rational but epidermic. Personally I’ve developed over time an authentic phobia when it comes to any advertisement, whatever it be : I can no longer stand it, even the slightest, modest, insignificant first-party ad triggers here a total refusal process.

    Content blocker? Built-in a browser or standalone? Guess!

    For the browser ‘uBlock Origin’, I’d say “of course”. Not only for ads but for managing all 1st-party and 3rd-party content that may relate to tracking. Connections to social sites (which I avoid but sites love them), Google (fonts, scripts etc.) is often problematic to block because many sites rely on BigG, so we use the ‘LocalCDN’ to fulfill the site’s requirements, be it for Google goodies as well as for many other ones, avoiding therefor 3rd-party connections to such sites and as such avoiding tracking when applicable.

    System-wide : blocklists via the ‘DNScrypt-proxy’ application. About 12MBs of blockers, urls and ips.

    All this for content blocking. There’s more than intrusive content to one’s privacy and security, as we all know. Cookies, localStorage and IndexedDB to name the best known. Disk cache itself for those who use it!
    Frankly : the more you dig into the web the more you discover a hell of craps and not only trojans, nasty scripts aiming to break your security in order to let the “bad guys” break your neck and/or wallet (wallet nowadays) but as well a hell of craps developed to preserve users from the “bad guys” while getting a hand on users’ privacy to “defend” them together with the traditional tracking processes.

    C’est la vie. It’s life as it is what has been done of what could have been a haven of a planet’s brotherhood : the Web is now the World Wild Web. If it weren’t for humans met here and there, for obvious facilities, i’d have quit the whole darn thing years ago.

  5. Klaas Vaak said on January 13, 2023 at 2:05 pm
    Reply

    @Tom Hawack: Hi Tom, how are ya? Bonne année en bonne santé.

    You stated: “If it weren’t for humans met here and there, for obvious facilities, i’d have quit the whole darn thing years ago.”

    I doubt you would have quit. The simple fact is that, apart from humans here and there, it is virtually impossible to live a regular life without the internet. Think of your banking, news and analysis, travel bookings, etc., and yes, there are the social media sites.

    1. Tom Hawack said on January 13, 2023 at 4:32 pm
      Reply

      @Klaas Vaak, hello! Bonne année, bonne santé et tutti quanti :=)

      What you mention are the “facilities” I was referring to, except that you consider them as being nowadays more than facilities given alternatives (“the old way”) are progressively vanishing hence let the Internet be considered as unavoidable. Perhaps indeed should I have stated rather “common tasks” or even “required modern life tasks” (administration, bank, transactions…).

      This means that “quitting”, “abandoning” the Internet would mean more than returning to life as it was before, because life as it was before is no longer possible. I’ve mentioned it often, must be a sort of “rescue phantasm”, that the alternative would be a split with modern life. It is possible but as always, two points to consider: 1) phantasms, dreams show the sunny side of the street, not the cons, 2) addiction, even addiction to things we consider hateful (the rainy side of the street, of the WWW) may become sunnier in our view the day we no longer face them….

      Finally there is one’s age, what he’s experienced. I’ll be 70 by the end of the year and comparison with the younger ones is a challenge, I am myself disconnected, if not from adults at least from teens, their values, their standards, their way of lives (needs a plural) . More you’ve lived greater is comparison unavoidable, unavoidable doesn’t mean objective by the way, but it’s there, you think, appreciate some things you find better nowadays and regret some others. Hard to be objective. We had a psychology teacher at university who’d repeat so often that I’ll always remember it : “Don’t take people for what you’d like them to be, take them for what they are” and maybe is this advice valid for life as well. But do we have to be coherent? Coherence is a contribution to a mind’s stability hence indirectly to one’s happiness, but not sure our deep souls and hidden quests can be satisfied by rational thoughts. Quit everything and continue one’s life anywhere far from civilization is an option, doable.

  6. Anonymous said on January 17, 2023 at 7:08 pm
    Reply

    “Shields, Brave’s content blocking and privacy protection feature, is enabled by default in the browser, but ads are shown.
    This may be confusing to some users. To better understand Brave’s content blocking feature, it is important to understand the differences between the three available Brave Shield modes”
    “One of the most important differences between standard and aggressive blocking modes is that the former does not block first-party ads.”

    No. What is important to understand is that the default mode is not an adblocker but is only here to block the ads of competitors.

    Actually this ad policy will also conveniently not block Google Search ads Brave make money from indirectly through search deals:

    https://brave.com/faq/#search-engines

    “Why doesn’t Brave block ads on search engine results page ?
    […]Google[…]”

    https://brave.com/faq/#how-brave-makes-money

    “Partnership deals (for example with platforms integrated into the Brave browser).”

    However, uBlock Origin blocks such ads by default.

    And of course it’s only a part of the ad problem in browsers: in addition to owning an ad-supported search engine and partnering with other such ones like Google, Brave also monetizes the users’ sensitive private data, that it has access to directly with the privileged browser code, to display targeted ads directly within the browser interface itself independently of the displayed site.

    Whatever the cries on the Firefox subreddit might have been (I don’t go there any longer as the tiniest non-Google approved comment there seems to disappear without any reason given), it will only be crocodile tears considering that Firefox does this last specific thing too. Among hundreds of other similar pro-ad industry provocations over the years.

    “To put it differently: Brave Browser, and many other products, including Firefox, would probably not exist without Internet advertising.”

    Or how to turn a giant conflict of interest into a quality.

  7. Anonymous said on January 18, 2023 at 10:49 am
    Reply

    I’ve used Brave for a while, and I hated how bloated it was. Its built-in ad-blocker was utterly useless, and there is no way to completely remove it. Every time I installed it, I had to spend a long time disabling all that nonsense they baked into it. Being a privacy-centric browser is great and all, but it’s not worth dealing with that nonsense, not for me. I went back to FF ESR, it’s far from perfect, but it gets the job.

    1. Peterc said on January 22, 2023 at 3:00 am
      Reply

      @Anonymous: I didn’t have this experience. Brave is now my primary fallback browser when Pale Moon doesn’t work (i.e., for sites that have re-coded to support Google Chrome and its multi-process, GAFAM-protocol ilk exclusively). The initial setup was a bit of a pain (not least because tweaking chromium-based browsers was pretty foreign to me), but former Ghacks reader/commenter Iron Hand helped me out with some *very useful tips* he posted on this very site. I’ve left Brave Shields at Standard and added uBlock Origin with the same list of subscriptions I use in my other browsers, save Microsoft Edge. (I’ve left Microsoft Edge plain-vanilla for the same reason I used to leave Internet Explorer plain-vanilla: on rare occasions, you need a browser with ZERO mods and privacy protections to get a critical site to work.) Anyway, Brave works fine, I don’t see ads in it, and I don’t often have to open a site in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge to get it to work. I do maintain an installation of modern non-ESR Firefox “just in case,” but I never use it, as the amount of recurring work required to maintain privacy in it is even more offputting than for Windows 10. (If there were a Firefox equivalent to ShutUp10, which tells you when updates have reversed any of your previous privacy settings, I might be less wary.)

  8. Anonymous said on January 23, 2023 at 9:00 am
    Reply

    One of the main reasons I stopped using Brave is the sync. It was always weird, and a bit glitchy, but it was mostly fine. But then, they had to change how that pass phrase worked, it became rather useless.

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