In the early days of the internet, the only way you could explore new digital content was with the first web browser – WorldWideWeb. Today, in our always-online world, the internet is brimming with browser options; along with go-to favorites like Chrome and Firefox, you have a slew of lesser-known alternatives to choose from. And you might be surprised to find out some of them can even help you invest. There’s been a rise in the number of crypto browsers, a type of program that gives cryptocurrency fans an option designed with their needs in mind.
So what are crypto browsers, and how can they help you? Even if you’re familiar with investing in crypto, you might not have much experience with the emerging cryptocurrency-browser landscape. To get started, check out some of the basics, including what they are, how they work and whether they make safely investing in cryptocurrency easier.
Also referred to as blockchain browsers, crypto browsers aim to bridge the gap between Web 2.0 – where we are now – and Web 3.0, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help us navigate the internet. They still allow people to engage in traditional web-browsing activities but also support decentralized protocols. This makes transitions to a decentralized internet — internet that’s controlled by many users, not companies that can shut off access for millions of people — easier to manage.
Web 3.0 is essentially the next iteration of the internet. Some of the main goals of Web 3.0 are to provide greater utility and use a decentralized approach. Blockchain protocols are at the heart of Web 3.0, along with new ideas regarding data ownership.
Because crypto browsers embrace blockchain, they usually offer features you don’t find in other browsers. Along with browser-native crypto wallets, they may support plugins to third-party wallets. Additionally, some integrate with larger trading marketplaces or offer cryptocurrency rewards to users who manage their internet activities through the browsers.
How Crypto Browsers Work
Functionally, crypto browsers work like most other browsers you’re already familiar with. The application sends requests to servers when you enter URLs and conduct various online activities. Once it receives a reply, you see the relevant content displayed on your device. The main difference is that crypto browsers have some specific features you won’t find elsewhere.
Key Features of Crypto Browsers
There are a few defining features of crypto browsers. Usually, one of the main characteristics is the crypto wallet-integration options. Whether it’s a browser-native version or one you access through a third-party plugin, this adds convenient crypto functionality to the browser.
Another one of the potential differences is that you can get free cryptocurrency rewards by choosing certain crypto browsers. Essentially, these work like a typical rewards browser, but you get small amounts of cryptocurrency instead of other options – like points to spend on gift cards – as rewards for your activities.
Crypto browsers sometimes also integrate with a decentralized application (dApp) marketplace. That gives you more usage options.
The Role of dApps
dApps are applications that run on computers and mobile devices. They’re not unlike the software most of us use on our smartphones. However, dApps rely on decentralized blockchain networks and smart contracts instead of other frameworks or languages, like HTTP.
When an action triggers a smart contract, the action is verified to ensure legitimacy. If it all checks out, the related process executes. If not, it’s halted. Smart contracts allow for the removal of traditional intermediaries from many processes. For example, financial transactions could complete independent of typical systems, such as banks or payment processors.
The benefit of dApps is that individuals remain in control of their data. There isn’t a third party hosting or storing the information, ensuring that the owner of the data can limit its spread. Without a crypto browser, you can’t engage with most dApps. Additionally, the browser has to be compatible with the network the dApp uses.
The Pros and Cons of Crypto Browsers
The primary benefit of crypto browsers is actually privacy. They allow you to maintain ownership of your data, reducing the risks associated with having your personal data stored elsewhere. Many feature integrated VPN, ad blocking, tracker blocking and similar features. All of these are designed to improve security and maintain your privacy.
Many crypto browsers offer enhanced performance, mainly because the blockers reduce network strain and load times. Built-in wallets add another layer of convenience.
dApp accessibility is another clear benefit. Crypto browsers can interact with a range of Web 3.0 technologies, including decentralized exchanges (DEXs), NFT marketplaces, games, crypto mining and more.
When it comes to drawbacks, the overall browsing experience is less personalized. This is a typical trade-off for any approach that favors privacy, so it isn’t something that should disrupt your internet usage too much.
Another potential issue is that the ad-blocking approach may harm revenue for various creators. Most crypto browsers run their own ad networks, which you can choose to engage with or ignore. As a result, ads that are typically displayed on websites aren’t there. That holds the potential to harm a site’s earnings. Without ad revenue, certain websites might struggle to remain operational, but it would likely take many people switching over to crypto browsers to make this type of impact.
What Are Some Top Crypto Browsers?
There are several crypto browsers that are proving both functional and reliable. When it comes to a major name with built-in, browser-native crypto wallet options and dApp-accessing capabilities, Opera is it.
Opera originally started as a research project in 1994, with the browser formally launching in 1995. Like most browsers, Opera has been through a slew of iterations. Its initial crypto browser emerged in 2018, featuring Web 3.0 support and a built-in cryptocurrency wallet. In early 2022, the company released beta versions of a newer crypto browser.
Along with dApp access, the updated browser features a native non-custodial crypto wallet, which avoids the need to use extensions. Both the browser and wallet are designed by the same teams to ensure full compatibility and boost security. Plus, there are wallet-selector tools that allow you to engage with specific non-native wallets. There are also extra features, like ad and tracker blocking, no-log VPN and more.
There are other crypto browsers on the market as well, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Brave has a browser-native wallet and a rewards structure, allowing you to earn Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) if you opt into viewing first-party ads. Because the browser focuses on first-party ads, it also maintains your privacy.
CryptoTab also has a built-in wallet. However, its rewards allow you to mine Bitcoin while surfing the web. Osiris has a more versatile wallet than some alternatives, making it compatible with several cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks. Plus, it integrates with ACE tokens.
Google Chrome isn’t inherently a crypto browser, but it does support certain crypto wallet extensions. While this comes with more risk – spoofing is more likely with this approach to wallet integration – it can be a viable alternative if you aren’t interested in fully taking the plunge into an entire crypto-internet ecosystem at first.