New web browsers come on the scene all the time, and in most cases, few people seem to care. However, the new privacy-oriented browser called Dissenter is getting a lot of attention.
In this article, we’ll tell you why the Dissenter browser is getting a lot of attention, both positive and negative. It really goes to the heart of the war against free speech being waged by Big Tech and other groups around the world.
But don’t worry. Once we get done with the political stuff, we’ll take a quick look at the browser itself and give you our thoughts on whether you should give it a try.
Ready? We start with the dirty business of Internet censorship.
What is the Dissenter Browser and Why is it Controversial?
You might not think there would be anything controversial about a new web browser. But in this case, you would be wrong. There are two main areas of controversy related to the Dissenter Browser.
One comes from its origin. The other comes out of the censorship war raging across the Internet. We’re going to talk about them both, but we’ll start with the origin problem.
The Origin of Dissenter
To understand the problem with Dissenter’s origin, we need to talk about Google Chrome. I know that sounds weird, but bear with me.
You probably know that Google Chrome is the most widely-used web browser in the world. What you may not know is that Chrome is based on an open-source browser called Chromium. Google created both of these browsers. The Chromium Project develops and maintains Chromium as an open-source project. That means that anyone can take a copy of the computer code for Chromium and modify it as they see fit.
This is exactly what the Google Chrome team does. They take a copy of the latest version of Chromium and add their own proprietary Google code to it, turning it into the latest version of Google Chrome. So far so good.
Another lesser-known fact is that several other web browsers are also based on Chromium. These include Opera, the latest versions of Microsoft Edge, and Brave, along with several others. There is nothing shady about this; since Chromium is open-source, using the code is perfectly legitimate.
Dissenter follows this tradition, but with a twist. Dissenter is created by Gab and based on Brave. This shouldn’t be a problem since Brave is open-source just like Chromium. But it turns out to have been a big problem for Brendan Eich, the CEO of Brave Software.
On April 17, 2019, Mr. Eich called the Gab team irrational for basing their Dissenter browser on his Brave browser code. The battle went back and forth between Mr. Eich, Gab, and a few others, with Eich finally escalating to this:
Answer this: what kind of parasite forks an open source browser to get an extension distributed to people who can already work around silly AppStore bans?
Brave is for users who dare to take back control of their data. Some who wants a detached comment system can use Dissenter.
— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) April 18, 2019
The argument went on for another few days but it is clear that: Mr. Eich doesn’t like Dissenter being built on Brave code, and since Brave is open-source, he can’t stop Gab from using that code.
Whatever you think of this Twitter battle, it shouldn’t have any impact on Dissenter in the long run. But this other area of controversy goes right to the core reason for the Dissenter browser’s existence and the attempts to destroy Gab, the company that created the browser.
Big Tech and “Progressives” Hate Gab
Aside from Mr. Eich, we don’t know of anyone who has a particular problem with the idea of another privacy browser coming on the scene. But Dissenter comes from Gab. And there are powerful forces that absolutely hate Gab and are doing everything they can to destroy the company.
First there was Gab
According to Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, he created it to be a social media site that supported free speech. As long as you didn’t violate United States law, you would be able to say whatever you wanted on Gab.
This stand infuriates powerful forces like all the big social media companies, along with web hosting companies, payment processors, and others with “progressive” political views who demand that they alone can decide what is acceptable online speech and that have the responsibility to censor anything they don’t like.
On October 27, 2018, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked by a man shouting anti-semitic remarks. He killed 11 people and injured several more. When it was discovered that the man had an account on the Gab social network where he posted anti-semitic comments, that was used as a pretext for an apparently coordinated attack on Gab.
Gab has lost its payment processors, lost its web hosting, and was blasted in the media as a “safe haven” for extremists including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the alt-right.
This all came about despite the fact that Gab worked with the police and FBI once they confirmed that the shooter had an account on its service. And despite the fact that the shooter appeared to have accounts on other social media sites which suffered no adverse effects from their presence. And despite the fact that anti-semitic comments appeared on other sites without repercussions.
Gab remained in business and eventually found new hosting. Then, in February 2019, it caused another ruckus by releasing the Dissenter extension.
Then There Was the Dissenter Extension
In recent years, the establishment media has been accused of political bias, incompetence, and outright lying to support a particular narrative. More and more people who felt that the media was acting in this way began to express their discontent and contempt in the comment sections of blogs and other online publications.
In response, these sites simply disabled the comment sections of their sites to keep people from disagreeing with them. As you can imagine, this angered people even more.
The team at Gab decided to address this problem by creating the Dissenter extension. Once you add the extension to your current web browser, you can comment on any web page. The comment is visible to anyone else visiting the same page if they too have the Dissenter extension installed.
Of course, this likely annoyed the folks who turned off their comment sections, to begin with. We don’t know all the details, but by April, the Dissenter extension was removed from Firefox’s add-ons gallery for reason of unspecified “abuse.”
The next day, Google banned the Dissenter extension from the Chrome store.
While the major Internet powers seemed determined to drive Gab and the Dissenter extension from the Internet, Torba told Breitbart News that:
That was in April. And now…
Now There is the Dissenter Browser
As we discussed at the top of this article, it is July 2019, and the Dissenter browser is here. It arrived as a fork of the Brave browser instead of Chromium, but it has arrived and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops.
A Quick Look at the Dissenter Browser
As we discussed earlier, the Dissenter browser is a fork of the Brave browser. Not surprisingly, it looks a lot like Brave and it functions a lot like Brave.
This means, among other things, that Dissenter has lots of built-in privacy features.
In other words, it has carried over the great security and privacy features that make Brave a favorite of privacy fans.
But this doesn’t mean that Dissenter is just a copy of Brave with a fresh coat of paint. There are some big differences too. Let’s look at the three biggest differences now.
The Brave Advertiser Support System is Gone
Part of the idea behind Brave is to block ads in general but allows ads that Brave feels are safe. It also allows users to reward content creators directly and eventually will reward users for viewing approved ads.
The system is complicated and the details aren’t really relevant here. What matters is that the reward system in Brave has been removed. Dissenter works like a regular browser with security built-in.
The Dissenter Extension is Built into the Browser
The reactions of the big tech companies and their friends against the Dissenter extension were a major trigger for the creation of the Dissenter browser. So, of course, the browser has the Dissenter commenting code built in.
When you use the Dissenter browser, you can attach comments to any web page, whether that page has a comment section or not. Anyone using the old Dissenter extension, or using the Dissenter browser can see those comments, add to them, even follow a favorite commenter.
Here’s what a YouTube page might look like when viewed with the Dissenter browser. Note the green Dissent This button circled in red at the bottom of the page.
Below is a page that Dissenters had commented on when we were working on this article. By clicking the green D at the top of the browser window, we were able to see the comments, like this:
Comments posted by users of Dissenter exist outside of the control of YouTube, Google, Twitter, or anyone else. And the Gab team is committed to only removing comments that violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
This stance does not sit well with all those who believe that speech on the Internet should be censored to allow only the viewpoints they approve of (companies such as YouTube, Google, Twitter, and so many others).
On July 13, 2019, shortly after Gab hit #1 in the Google Play Store, Alicia Powe reported that Google announced that it would ban Gab from its store unless it removed all user-generated content that the censors at Google feel is objectionable.
Apple has also banned Gab, so even if Gab one day publishes mobile versions of Dissenter, don’t expect to find it in any of the Big Tech app stores.
Indeed, the opposition to Gab’s no-censorship approach has gotten so strong that even F-Droid, a site that provides a home for Free and Open Source (FOSS) extensions for Android devices, announced that it would take a political stand. As Tom Parker at ReclaimTheNet.org puts it:
To make the whole situation even more pathetic, according to this thread on Reddit, F-Droid is censoring any discussion of its censorship of Gab. And if anyone doesn’t like it, they can go somewhere else to get their apps. Here’s a shot of the beginning of the thread:
This leads to the third big thing related to the Dissenter browser.
A New App Store is Coming
In reaction to the continuing censorship, Gab has stated that it will be creating its own app store for the Dissenter browser. One that doesn’t censor apps for their political views.
This is all we really know about it right now, but we’ll be watching to see what if anything comes of it. Given the way the Gab team announced they would create a browser and did it in just a few months, we shouldn’t have long to wait.
Gab made good on its promise to come out with its own web browser. While it is still under development, in our testing it seemed to work just fine.
If you want to test the Dissenter browser, you’ll need to download it directly from the Dissenter website. The browser is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux desktops.
P.S. If you do try to install the Dissenter browser on an Apple device, the following message, which appears on the Dissenter download page, is for you: