View Ads, Get BAT: Brave Delivers on ICO Promise of Paid Web Browsing

Brady Dale
Apr 24, 2019 at 16:01 UTC
Updated Apr 24, 2019 at 17:10 UTC
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Brave’s promise to compensate you for viewing online ads is finally coming to fruition.

In a departure from typical display ads embedded on websites, the privacy-minded web browser is debuting small notifications that aren’t wedded to particular sites. The notifications, visually akin to those of the Slack desktop app, feature promotional offers from different brands.

For users, it’s important to note, the Brave Rewards product is opt-in.

“This is what we’re excited about because it doesn’t require publisher opt-in,” Brave CEO Brendan Eich told CoinDesk in an interview. “The main model for us is advertiser-to-user.”

Describing the notifications as the “top of the funnel,” Eich explained that if the user clicks on one, they will be taken to a site with more information about the given offer.

Users can still keep using Brave without any kind of ad intervention, but they do have an incentive to join: Brave promises that 70 percent of the money companies spend on these ads will go to users (the rest is kept by Brave). The funds will be paid out to users’ wallets via Brave’s Basic Attention Token (BAT).

Brave Ads goes live today with a number of ad inventory suppliers, including Vice, Home Chef, ConsenSys, Ternio BlockCard, MyCrypto, eToro, BuySellAds, TAP Network, The Giving Block, AirSwap, Fluidity and Uphold.

“Brave is changing the paradigm of digital advertising where consumers are fairly rewarded for their attention,” Lin Dai, CEO of TAP Network, said in a statement. TAP brings over 250,000 partner merchants and brands to the new platform, according to Brave.

A screenshot shows the ad notification at bottom right. (Image courtesy of Brave)

Traditional online advertising works by monitoring web users’ behavior, reporting that to the cloud and picking ads to serve them based on that data.

“We turn tracking on its head,” Eich said.

A catalog of potential ads is served to the browser as a very light file and the browser, locally, follows user behavior and picks ads to show based on that. Crucially, the Brave browser never reports out data on user behavior.

“It’s a private ad system that doesn’t involve tracking on the front side,” Eich said. “It can pick ads that are specific to you based on your browser data.”

So, advertisers will still get the targeting they want, but they will have to rely on machine learning built into the Brave browser itself, rather than user activity stored in the cloud and compiled over time.

Getting paid

To start earning BAT for letting these notifications pop up, users need to make sure they are using the latest version of Brave.

Brave’s BAT offering was the original sold-out-in-seconds initial coin offering (ICO) in 2017, selling $35 million in BAT less than a minute. Like most ICOs of that era, there was a gap between distributions and the real-world usefulness of tokens.

Brave first gave users a way to use BAT by letting them donate funds to websites based on how often they visited them (the program actually began with bitcoin). In November 2017, the payment functionality was even extended to the level of specific YouTube personalities.

The new ads feature is actually an extension of the existing donation product. Currently, Brave Rewards users either add funds themselves or accept grants from Brave, and the BAT in their wallet is redistributed to the websites they visit. When Brave Ads kicks in, it will default to accumulating BAT for redistribution to publishers in the same fashion, unless the user changes the defaults.

Though the Brave browser blocks ads and trackers by default, Eich argues that this new product will start feeding funds out to its 55,000 verified publishers because he expects most users who opt-in will leave the defaults on, as most web users do.

“I think users are going to let it ride,” he said.

Later, the company hopes to integrate tracker-less ads on websites and offer publishers a simple micropayment solution so users could pay for an individual post rather than subscribing.

The project has been slowly starting to gain traction with major name-brand news sites.

When withdraw

Users can earn, but spending is going to take a little longer.

“If our users started taking BAT out on their own initiative, we would be defrauded overnight massively,” Eich told CoinDesk.

The reason for the delay: the company is still working to build up its know-your-customer (KYC) solution. So for now, earned BAT can only be used to support publishers. Users should be able to buy premium content and maybe specific products from vendors with BAT soon, Eich said.

Once KYC is in place, that should be enough of a hurdle to decrease fraud risk sufficiently, he added.

Further, Brave is working with its settlement partners, such as Uphold and Coinbase, so that when users can withdraw, they can withdraw to fiat if they prefer.

Eich said in a statement:

“With Brave Ads, we are launching a digital ad platform that is the first to protect users’ data rights and to reward them for their attention.”

Brave Ads launches today in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the U.K.

Correction (April 24, 16:35 UTC): Brave has 55,000 verified publishers, not 25,000, as was reported in an earlier version of this story.

Brave logo image via Twitter/Brave