The key advantages of using browser-based crypto wallets

There are many types of crypto wallets, like hardware and software, custodial and non-custodial. Here we consider crypto wallets that are built into Web browsers (usually called “browser-based” or “browser-native” wallets). Browser-based wallets are non-custodial software wallets (meaning they’re digital wallets that give you complete control of your assets). What makes browser-native wallets unique is that they’re built right into your Web browser, so you don’t need to worry about extra downloads or extensions.

Browser-based crypto wallets represent a new way of thinking about—and connecting to—Web3. And they’re quickly becoming more popular as Web3 integration increases.

The evolution of crypto wallets: What are browser-based wallets?

In the early days of Web3, using a crypto wallet meant installing a piece of software (like an app) on your device. As Web3 adoption increased, so did crypto wallet innovation. The first reputable hardware wallets debuted in 2014, and extension-based wallets like MetaMask didn’t become popular until around 2016. It’s only recently that Web3 adoption has become widespread enough for companies to look closer at wallet functionality.

Browser-native crypto wallets represent a whole new crypto wallet model—one that deems crypto asset storage and Web3 connectivity worthy of being included by default. This shift signals forward thinking from Web browsers as more and more people want to connect to Web3 in addition to the traditional Web (i.e. Web 2.0).

How do browser-based crypto wallets work?

Browser-based crypto wallets work much like other software crypto wallets, only they’re built directly into your Web browser. That usually means they match the look and feel of your browser, feeling more like a familiar feature than something tacked-on. And they don’t require any additional downloads, installs, or setup.

Browser-based vs. extension-based crypto wallets

Browser-based wallets shouldn’t be confused with browser extension-based wallets; the latter requires you to download and install a third-party extension to your browser. This key difference has serious implications for security, performance, and convenience. Let’s compare these two types of wallets.

Security

There’s nothing inherently wrong with browser extensions; they’re just small apps or pieces of software that customize your Web browser. Most do something benign (e.g. enable “dark mode” for your browser) and require relatively few permissions. Others, however, like extension-based crypto wallets, require broad permissions (i.e. the ability to “read and change all your data on the websites you visit”) and have access to sensitive personal/financial data. This introduces more risk.

There’s also the risk that browser extensions—by nature of being external, third-party downloads—can be spoofed and expose you to phishing scams. Some extensions can be downloaded directly from a third-party source like a developer’s website (which introduces its own security risks), but most come from a centralized source (i.e. the Chrome Web Store). Centralized sources provide some peace of mind with internal security review processes, but that doesn’t mean they’re risk-free. There’s always a risk that:

  • A malware-containing extension could slip through the security review process
  • An approved legitimate extension could then be sold to a different publisher who changes the code and introduces malware
  • Google could remove an extension from the Chrome Web Store making it much harder (if not impossible) to receive important updates

Learn more about potential security risks and security best practices with browser extensions.

Performance

Extension-based wallets require extra processes to run on your device. With too many browser extensions, or extensions not behaving as they’re intended to, it’s easy to end up with high CPU and local device memory usage, and overall slow-down of device performance.

For mobile devices, where extension functionality is severely limited, most extension-based wallets resort to providing standalone apps. It’s common for these crypto wallet apps to come with a severely watered-down, built-in Web browser. So if you want to connect to a Web3 site or DApp on your mobile device, you typically won’t be able to do so directly in your preferred mobile browser; you’d need to use this more basic “browser” that’s included in the wallet app.

Convenience

Extensions are built by third-parties, and simply aren’t as well integrated as something built into your browser. Most extensions feel like an external program rather than a built-in feature, one that’s disjointed from the browser or device you’ve installed them on.

Relying on extensions and apps for crypto wallet functionality also entails a lot of extra work: multiple downloads and installs, and multiple things to keep updated and secure.

This workload is multiplied if you must resort to using both an extension and an app (i.e. for both desktop and mobile functionality), or if you need to install multiple extensions/apps for different networks (e.g. one extension/app for Ethereum, and one extension/app for Solana). In these scenarios, it’s easy to find yourself dealing with all kinds of different interfaces and processes—resulting in a fragmented user experience.

The key advantages of browser-based crypto wallets

We can examine the advantages of browser-based crypto wallets across the same three categories: security, performance, and convenience.

Security

Browser-based wallets solve most of the security concerns around downloading third-party software/extensions, because these wallets are built directly into your Web browser. There’s also no dependence on a third-party wallet provider, or a centralized extension distributor like the Chrome Web Store. Instead of verifying multiple downloads, and trusting multiple software providers, you only have to trust one: the browser itself. (Just ensure you download your Web browser from the official source, like this one for the Brave browser.)

Note that your browser’s privacy and security standards are likely mirrored across all its built-in features. For example, the crypto wallet that’s built into the Brave browser—Brave Wallet—is uniquely secure because it inherits Brave’s strict privacy and security protections. This applies on mobile, too, so you can use Brave Wallet on the go with all the tracking protections you expect from Brave.

Performance

Browser-based wallets are highly resource-efficient. They don’t require any extra processes to run, which means less CPU and memory use on your device, and overall better performance.

On the mobile side, where most wallet apps use an underpowered Web browser for Web3 connectivity, browser-based wallets have an opportunity to work differently. Brave Wallet, for example, is fully functional on desktop and mobile—without compromises. Instead of a watered-down experience, you get a world-class crypto wallet directly in Brave’s full-fledged privacy browser. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on desktop or mobile, Brave is the only app you’ll ever need.

Convenience

Another major benefit of browser-based wallets is that they’re natively integrated with your browser interface, giving a strong sense of familiarity. Brave Wallet, for example, simplifies the process of managing your digital assets and makes connecting to Web3 DApps seamless. So whether you’re new to the Brave browser or have been using it for years, you’ll feel right at home.

With Brave, it’s easy to experience how well Brave Wallet is integrated all over the browser. Other browser features seamlessly connect to Brave Wallet (like Brave Talk’s Web3 functionality). And navigating to a Web3 site or DApp is as simple as using the same URL bar you’re used to—it will automatically resolve ENS and SNS domains, as well as Unstoppable Domains. All in the name of making Web3 easily accessible for anyone.

In many cases there’s also no need to switch between apps and extensions for wallet functionality. Brave Wallet includes all the features of leading crypto wallets in one convenient place, and offers multi-chain support for Ethereum (and EVM-compatible chains and L2s), Solana, and Filecoin—with more compatibility coming soon. And it’s easy to sync Brave Wallet across your mobile and desktop devices.

Embracing browser-native crypto wallets with Brave

The main advantages of browser-native wallets are immediately noticeable: They feel familiar, are easier to use, and offer a better security model. If you’re ready to try a browser-native crypto wallet from a browser you can trust, download Brave. Brave Wallet is already built in—it just needs to be switched on.

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