Meet the private browsers
Firefox Focus, DuckDuckGo, and Brave are all similar, but with a few important differences.
Firefox Focus, available only for mobile devices like iPhones and Android smartphones, is straightforward. You enter a web address, and when you’re done browsing, tap the trash can icon to clear the session. Exiting the application automatically purges the history. When you load a website, the browser relies on a database of trackers to determine which ones to block.
DuckDuckGo, also available only for mobile devices, looks more like a traditional browser. This means that you can bookmark your favorite sites and open multiple browser tabs.
When you use the search bar, the browser returns results from the DuckDuckGo search engine, which the company says is more privacy-focused because its ads don’t track people’s online behavior. DuckDuckGo also prevents ad trackers from loading. Once browsing is complete, you can tap the flame icon at the bottom to clear the session.
Brave is also more like a traditional web browser, with anti-tracking technology and features like bookmarks and tabs. It includes a private mode which should be enabled if you don’t want people looking at your web history.
Brave is also so aggressive when it comes to blocking trackers that in the process it almost always blocks ads entirely. Other private browsers blocked ads less frequently.
For most people, not seeing ads is an advantage. But for those who want to give back to a publisher whose ads are blocked, Brave hosts their own ad network that you can join. In exchange for showing ads that don’t track your behavior, you earn a revenue cut in the form of a token. You can then choose to donate tokens to websites you like. (Only web publishers who have a partnership with Brave can receive tokens.)
Battle of the Navigators
I tested all three browsers on my iPhone, setting each as the default browser for a few days.
All of them have a button to see how many trackers they’ve blocked while loading a website. To test this, I visited nypost.com, the New York Post website, which loaded 83 trackers without any tracking prevention. With DuckDuckGo, 15 of the nypost.com trackers have been blocked. With Brave it was 22. And Firefox Focus stuck 47.