What's a crypto browser, and how do they work?

Web browsers are an integral part of life—without them, there’d be no easy way to navigate the internet. Even if you’re not familiar with the term “browser,” you’ve definitely used one before: Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Brave are just some of the major browsers available today. But how do they work? Basically, when you visit a website your browser sends a request to the server where that website “lives.” The server sends back the content you see on your screen. Seems simple enough. But then what about crypto browsers? 

What is a crypto browser?

If you haven’t heard of a crypto browser, it’s likely because many people also refer to them as blockchain browsers. Both terms refer to any web browser that supports Web3 technologies, such as blockchain. More specifically, these browsers bridge the gap between today’s Web 2.0 experience and the decentralized internet envisioned by Web 3.0 enthusiasts. By making decentralized protocols accessible through a familiar interface, crypto browsers provide a critical gateway to the decentralized ecosystem, especially for newcomers.

Almost all crypto browsers integrate a crypto wallet that allows you to buy, sell, or store your cryptocurrency. While some of these crypto wallets are built into the browser (aka “browser-native”), many operate as extensions. For example, the MetaMaskand Phantom browser extension wallets facilitate crypto transactions on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains, respectively. In addition to crypto wallets, some crypto browsers integrate marketplaces for decentralized applications (DApps). However, before delving into how DApps and crypto browsers interact, it’s helpful to understand what a DApp is and how it works.

What are DApps?

Decentralized applications (DApps) are similar to the centralized apps found on your computer and mobile device. However, unlike centralized platforms like Apple Music or Spotify, DApps are built on decentralized blockchain networks. Instead of using the HTTP internet language to communicate with the web, DApps communicate with the blockchain using smart contracts.

Whenever these smart contracts trigger a transaction, network validators decide if it’s legitimate. Together, these functions eliminate the need for intermediaries such as banks and Big Tech companies that usually host applications. For example, Steemit is the decentralized equivalent of apps like Facebook and YouTube. Because the Steemit DApp is blockchain-based, no single entity controls the network, meaning you maintain control of your data. However, you’ll need a crypto browser capable of interacting with DApps to realize these benefits.

How crypto browsers and DApps interact

Browser-based crypto wallets have become a common portal to Web3 because they facilitate convenient DApp interactions. These DApps can be games, decentralized exchanges (DEXs), decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols, and more. Most of the DApps you access through a crypto browser will look like a regular website. However, you won’t interact with these platforms without a crypto browser. For example, the Uniswap DEX looks like a typical website on the front end, but to access the back end DApp, you’ll need an Ethereum-compatible crypto browser. While not exhaustive, the following list includes some of the most commonly used crypto browsers:

  • Brave: Integrates a built-in, browser-native crypto wallet and rewards users with BAT for choosing to view privacy-preserving, first-party ads.
  • Opera: Supports a built-in, browser-native crypto wallet and DApp explorer.
  • Google Chrome: Supports several crypto wallet extensions such as Phantom, MetaMask, and Binance Chain Wallet. Unlike browser-native crypto wallets, extension wallets are more prone to spoofing, increasing the risk of phishing and asset theft. Spoofing occurs when hackers create a fake extension hoping that you’ll download theirs instead of the legitimate one.
  • CryptoTab: Integrates a crypto wallet and allows you to mine bitcoin (BTC) as you surf the web.
  • Osiris: The Osiris crypto browser is built on the Acent blockchain and integrates the ACE utility token, generating more value for holders. Osiris also supports a built-in “Metawallet” compatible with multiple blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

It’s important to note that browser crypto wallets are compatible with a specific blockchain. For example, MetaMask will interact with DApps built on Ethereum, while Phantom only connects with DApps on Solana. As a result, you may have to install more than one wallet extension on your crypto browser. If you prefer a more secure option, select a browser with a built-in wallet that’s compatible with the DApps you’ll use most often.

What DApps can a crypto browser access?

As shown, crypto browsers allow you to interact with Web3 technologies using a familiar interface. However, you might be wondering what kind of DApps you can access with your crypto browser—let’s take a closer look.

  • Decentralized exchanges (DEXs): DEX protocols like Uniswap (Ethereum) and Pancake Swap (Binance Smart Chain) can communicate with crypto browser wallets. This functionality lets you hold crypto in a non-custodial wallet while keeping your funds available for trading.
  • Borrowing and lending protocols: Like DEXs, borrowing and lending protocols can communicate with your crypto browser wallet. For example, you might connect your non-custodial wallet to Compound and borrow or lend 15 different cryptocurrencies.
  • Payment networks: Protocols like xDai Bridge and OmniBridge allow you to “wrap” cryptocurrency so you can use it on a faster, Layer 2 blockchain network. For example, you might connect your wallet to xDai Bridge to convert ether (ETH) to wrapped ether on xDai.
  • Games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs): Crypto browsers can also enable access to gaming DApps and NFT marketplaces. For example, you might use your non-custodial wallet to visit the OpenSea marketplace to purchase an Ethereum-based NFT or the Binance Chain Wallet to play My DeFi Pet.
  • Mining DApp (CryptoTab): CryptoTab is a unique crypto browser that allows you to mine bitcoin (BTC) while you browse the web. To participate, you’ll need to install the CryptoTab mining app on the devices you plan to use for mining. CryptoTab pools the processing power from all your devices and rewards you with BTC proportional to your contribution.

What’s the best crypto browser?

When deciding which crypto browser is best for you, consider the following questions. Does the crypto browser integrate privacy features like ad blocking, tracker blocking, or a VPN? In addition, does the crypto browser use a built-in wallet or rely on extension wallets? Finally, does the crypto browser issue incentives as crypto or mining rewards?

After answering each of these questions, we believe the Brave browser comes out on top. The fully integrated application offers ad and tracker blocking, VPN protection, a built-in crypto wallet that’s Web3 compatible, and BAT rewards. These features are hard to beat when brought together in a single crypto browser.

Get started with Brave Wallet!

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