Are Frontends pointless if using VPN + Brave? (from privacy standpoint)

Take Youtube/Freetube for example. VPN hides my identity and Brave blocks the ads. Downloading Freetube seems to just an another thing to my “to-trust” box.


Not all of the frontends actually proxy traffic.

But imo using eg. YouTube through Tor is better than a frontend.

personally I believe that Frontends hold value outside of Privacy, too

For example, using NewPipe on my phone I get background playback, no ads, and a more private client (albeit without proxying, like Piped or Libretube does)

or when we shift to the desktop, I always use Piped because it loads faster, has a smaller package size (so I have to wait less on slower connections) and content gets proxied even when I don’t have a VPN on

additionally, YouTube especially has recently restricted suggestions - or the entire homepage - if you opt out of watch history, but I can get contextual suggestions and watch history with something like Piped or NewPipe


100% agree with @TGRush, frontends are way cleaner and have better UX in most cases.

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Just to be clear a VPN masks your IP address not your identity.

An IP address is one potential identifier that can be used to track you, but it isn’t the only way (or even the most effective or common way you are tracked).

Regardless of whether you use a VPN or an adblocker or not, if you connect directly to Youtube, you give Google a lot more potential ways in which they can track your browsing/viewing (this is one reason why social media platforms push so hard for you to use their official apps, they want insights into what you click, what you don’t, how long something captures your attention, what you do after reading/watching something, etc). Also if you want to use features like subscriptions and that sort of thing you must be signed into an account, some frontends have recreated features like this without requiring a google account.

A frontend, especially in combination with a VPN gives me a lot more peace of mind, than visiting youtube directly, quality of life is also better (for me). I much much prefer the experience of Freetube on desktop or Newpipe on Android to the real youtube experience.


Frontends are more private than directly using Youtube but even they won’t necessarily make you anonymous.

When you open Newpipe, it requests the thumbnails for each channel you’re subscribed to and it doesn’t proxy your traffic, so your IP can be linked to this list of channels. The same probably goes for other programs too.

Even with a proxy or VPN, if you have a unique list of subscriptions exported from your Google account, that can probably be used to tie you to your previous Google account. I’m not sure to what lengths Google would go but they could definitely do that. I’m not sure if they could reliably track your video watching but they could see which channels you’ve added since.

So depending on your use case, using a frontend could defeat the use of Tor even. You could mitigate this by compartmentalizing, but I wouldn’t bank on anonymity.

The frontends are a huge improvement though since Google has to work much harder to track you.

Alternatively, anonymity could be possible if these programs requested thumbnails only when you accessed each channel page and you avoided using any sort of feed functionality.

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I understand how Frontends are much better at allowing you to use features such as subscriptions without being traced.
But if I am literally doing nothing but searching and opening a video, is there any information which Youtube would pick up from me through Brave which a Frontend would block?

Well getting no ads. Is good for privacy because those ads basically always track how you interact with them.

afaik, piped hides your IP address from youtube whereas Invidious does not. But, I always find piped a bit buggy.

In this case, I think that the additional exposure is limited. I primarily use frontends, but I occasionally watch one-off videos on youtube directly this way.

That said, it is still less private. I don’t think anyone will be able to tell you with certainty all the ways in which it is less private but here are some potential concerns/vulnerabilities:

  1. IP Address, you are using a VPN, so it won’t be your ISP assigned IP, but it is still an identifier that can be used to track correlate your browsing within and outside of youtube. Also possibly be correlated with your Google account if you sign into it from that IP frequently. Of course, because there are many others using the same VPN server / IP, using a VPN should muddy the waters somewhat with regard to what browsing data is actually attributable to you vs others, but the risk is there.
  2. Behaviors and attention while using youtube. If you use the official website, you are giving Google the ability to see a lot more of your interactions with the platform than you would if you used a frontend. This may or may not matter to you, but using Youtube directly gives Google more awareness about what you click or don’t click, where your mouse hovers, what video you click after watching a video, whether you use an adblocker, and a bunch of other tiny datapoints which in aggregate can be used for any number of things from tuning the algorithm to be a bit more addictive, to making inferences about you or your behavior, to blocking ad-blockers, to fingerprinting you.

Edit: also I just want to point out that using a frontend doesn’t necessarily mean using a separate app like freetube. If your goal is just to be able to use Youtube from the browser, you should know that there are browser based frontends (Piped, Invidious) that you can use from within Brave or any other browser. (for example)


Something to add which I didn’t see here, but a lot of frontends work without Javascript, whereas a lot of first-party sites require it nowadays. That’s one of the other reasons we recommend them, more compatibility with locked down browsers like Tor Browser on Safest Mode.


Yes, I didn’t know about browser frontends at the time of posting. Now that I do and with your additional comments, I conclude it’s time transition to frontends :slight_smile:

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One last thing which you may not be aware of, there are Firefox browser extensions like libredirect, which will automatically redirect youtube links to your preferred frontend (they work with a ton of other services as well) so anytime you click a youtube link it’ll automatically redirect to your preferred frontend.


I find LibRedirect almost a requirement to use frontends, by the way.

With all the rate limiting, slow instances, piped misbehaving constantly, I find myself pinging instances on the extension’s config page constantly.

I downloaded it found it extremely buggy/slow. I kept getting this error:

Couldn’t send request to Reddit: error trying to connect: dns error: failed to lookup address information: Temporary failure in name resolution

I wonder if slowness or things not loading up at all should be expected from Frontends or am I just doing something wrong.

Especially Piped, Invidious and Nitter instances are currently at war with the respective platforms they allow you to visit, as YouTube for example has sent Cease & Desist letters to both projects (or at least Invidious, correct me if I’m wrong) and is actively trying to block these services from working.

Temporarily, try disabling Secure DNS, either System-Wide or in your browser, to find out whether your current DNS is causing issues. If not, check the GitHub for whether this is a known issue and if there is a fix/workaround yet. If not, please open an issue so others with the same problem can beenfit from a fix.

I sometimes encounter rate limiting errors on the Libreddit instance I use to occasionally browse Reddit, despite efforts by the maintainer to set up measures against these issues.