Web browsers on blockchain: the new things to come

The web browser is an underrated, yet powerful tool, and will be acquiring greater influence in many ways in the next decade. Web 3.0 includes blockchains, wallets and dApps, and these will push the modest browser to get an upgrade and evolve. Some current efforts indicate the direction in which web browsers, now mostly open source, are moving.

Plugins have been the first to arrive on the scene. The cute Metamask wallet/interface is one of the most popular ways to access websites using blockchain and store tokens. A move beyond plugin were the mining extensions to web browsers that have recently been banned in Firefox and Chrome.

Integrating a crypto wallet sounds easy, and so Opera is stepping into Web 3.0 with what it calls the world’s first major browser with a crypto wallet on Android and iOS (for Opera Touch). The wallet will store ERC20/ether tokens, and claim to be easier to use without the need for PIN or private keys. The desktop version for this is a development version.

A more audacious attempt has come from the co-founder of Mozilla and creator of JavaScript, Brendan Eich. Brave is not just a browser, based as it is on a very different concept — users can not only browse, but also pay via BAT tokens to content creators and websites, and earn BAT tokens by watching ads and accessing websites.

BAT stands for Basic Attention Token. Brave is trying to monetize the time and attention spent by the vast majority of internet users (time = money). The idea is not new, as there have been mobile apps where users are paid to watch ads, or even turn their phone homescreen into a paying space.

Brave has many selling points to market- it claims to be twice faster in downloading news websites, up to eight times faster in general, and blocks all ads (we download these along with content on the page), thus saving us upwards of two hundred dollars in data charges a year.

We may want to dismiss the BAT token as yet another unwanted addition to thousands of alt coins. But the coin is trading at $0.20, and has over $200 million in market cap. That’s an impressive value compared to alt coins currently worth three zeroes after the dot. Since launch, BAT is over 20% up as ROI.

Lastly, there is news coming in that IBM has filed a patent for a web browser that will store user surfing information on the blockchain. It’s called a blockchain-based browser, or one backed by a peer-to-peer network. The kind of data collected will include history of web sites visited, bookmarks, plugins and geolocation.

As per online reports, IBM’s patent is a step towards privacy, as pre-specified browsing experiences will be securely stored, and the user will be in control rather than third parties. It is not clear what kind of control users will get, and whether they can erase their browsing data later. An interesting idea floated online is that users could store their personal browsing data on blockchain rather than handing it over to the big social media plaforms.

All of these are attempts to bring blockchain into web browsers. The other way round, bringing browsers into the blockchain also has a few takers. The Nimiq coin (NET/NIM) runs totally within a browser.

For developers and techies, there is a new browser based way to explore dapps, people and communities. Blockstack is backed by YC (founded in 2013), has its own blockchain, and wants users to be in control of their rights over their data and identity. Blockstack claims to be building the decentralized web, as a counter to social media giants. The Stacks token (STX) is currently on public sale as well. The apps running on Blockstack are meant to protect our identity and privacy.

The apps on display on the Blockstack official site include Bitpatreon (a crypto alternative to Patreon), document sharing app, a photo vault, password manager for teams, etc. These remind one of the many such apps on Linux or Ubuntu, mostly open sourced. The concern for privacy alone many not be a strong enough factor to make users switch to another service provider, away from their existing desktop apps, but Blockstack and all of the above mentioned innovations do show the vision to what’s in store a few decades if not years from now.

Any further information on what’s in store for browsers from the blockchain industry is welcome in the comments section.

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