Surfing With Crypto: How Web Browsers Are Adding Support for CryptocurrencyApr 17, 2019, 2:19PM
Some browsers have added support for cryptocurrency. Will this make crypto more accessible, and will mainstream browsers follow the trend?
Cryptocurrency and the web go hand in hand. Much of Bitcoin's appeal comes from the fact that it can be sent across the world, and this is made possible by the Internet. However, in order to begin using cryptocurrency, users must take a few extra steps: they either need to download or sign up for a specialized wallet. Unfortunately, niche software and extra sign-ups are a barrier to adoption.
By contrast, most people use a web browser on a daily basis. Web browsers don't just load web pages: they also automatically handle various aspects of the Internet. And, as it turns out, a few notable web browsers are already beginning to handle crypto-related features. Rather than turning crypto into a chore for their users, these browsers are making crypto more convenient than ever.
Brave and the BAT Token
Although Brave has a very small market share, it has been pushing for crypto adoption harder than any other web browser. Brave was created by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich in 2015 with the goal of creating an improved web content ecosystem. To accomplish this, Brave is integrating cryptocurrency in a few different ways―primarily through its native Basic Attention Token (BAT).
Brave circulates BAT tokens between users, advertisers, and content creators. After a long trial period, Brave has finally started to reward its users with free BAT tokens when they view certain advertisements. This all happens within the Brave browser, so there is no need for users to rely on a separate wallet. Cashing out one's tokens will also be easy thanks to Brave's upcoming gift card offers.
BAT is just one part of Brave: the browser has also previously integrated Metamask, an Ethereum wallet that allows users to transfer ETH tokens, use dApps, and access addresses on the Ethereum Name Service (ENS). Thanks to Metamask, users can access features that normal browsers are incapable of handling―plus, Brave and Metamask accomplish all of this seamlessly.
It must be noted that Metamask isn't exclusive to Brave―it is an extension that can also be installed in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. However, Brave has chosen to make Metamask available automatically. It suggests Metamask whenever users attempt to access Ethereum-based apps and sites, meaning that users can begin using Ethereum with just a few clicks.
Opera and Web 3.0
Opera is another browser that is taking steps to integrate cryptocurrency. Last year, Opera added a custom Ethereum wallet to its mobile app. Shortly after that, Opera integrated the wallet with its desktop browser. Although Opera has a modest market share, this addition brought Ethereum to the attention of millions of users who would not otherwise have heard of it.
Opera followed up on these accomplishments by joining forces with Ledger Capital last fall, and the two organizations sought out new ways for Opera to expand its blockchain efforts. Then, in December, Opera released a web 3.0 version of its Android browser. This release was the first to offer extensive support for decentralized Ethereum applications, or dApps―a major milestone for Opera.
In the future, Opera plans to add support for Ethereum Name Service addresses (as well as support for IPFS addresses). Although very little has been revealed, the end result will probably be similar to Metamask. Opera will most likely allow users to access decentralized and blockchain-based websites in a simple way. And if Opera leads the way, mainstream browsers may follow.
Tor and Onion Addresses
Brave and Opera may be looking toward the future, but the Tor browser has been a vital tool for Bitcoin users ever since the coin was created. Tor is a privacy browser, meaning that it obscures IP addresses and provides other anti-tracking features. It differs from other browsers due to its ability to access special web links called Onion addresses.
Although Onion addresses are sometimes associated with the dark web, they can also be used to anonymously access regular web sites. As such, many crypto-related tools, such as coin mixers and decentralized exchanges, can be accessed via Onion addresses for extra anonymity. Tor's features are not new, but they have become a staple of the Bitcoin ecosystem.
Additionally, the Tor browser can be used alongside the official Bitcoin client for maximum privacy. After downloading the Tor browser, you can configure your Bitcoin client to run on the Tor network by following these instructions. Unfortunately, this is not as simple or seamless as the other procedures described in this article, but it is a noteworthy feature of Tor.
All of the browsers described above have a fairly minor market share, but they are nevertheless significant in their own way. Although Onion addresses are fairly old technology, Tor deserves credit for Bitcoin's earliest web integration. Meanwhile, Brave and Opera may very well inspire mainstream browsers to introduce cutting-edge crypto features.
On the other hand, mainstream browsers could be very cautious when it comes to introducing crypto features. Firefox, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge have all taken steps to restrict crypto mining, as it can be used for malicious purposes. Perhaps this is a justifiable priority. In any case, it may be some time before mainstream browsers embrace crypto―if it happens at all.
Disclaimer: information contained herein is provided without considering your personal circumstances, therefore should not be construed as financial advice, investment recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation for, any transactions in cryptocurrencies.