Paying for content with Brave and BAT

For years now there have been three major browsers in common usage. Chrome, Firefox and Edge. And a couple of minor ones – Opera and Vivaldi (for a full list of browsers, see Web Dev Notes).

I’ve recently changed my default browser to one that you may not have heard of. Brave. The most interesting thing about Brave is that it is designed with security and privacy first and as such does not allow ads, tracking or fingerprinting by the sites that you visit. Depending on which sites they are, this can make a big difference to the speed of browsing and this is particularly true on mobile. They claim that desktop sites can be twice as fast and mobile up to eight times faster and I would agree with that, although it will vary with how commercial a site is. The Brave browser project was founded by Brendan Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla and the inventor of Javascript. Another co-founder is Brian Bondy, also from Mozilla/Firefox. So, a lot of good experience and pedigree there! And I believe the rendering engine is based on the electron/chromium libraries, so it is all standards compliant.

Brave’s tag line is “A browser with your interests at heart” and this is the important difference between Brave and other browsers. There are many other free, OSS browsers out there, but they are all supported, and run for, corporations like Google or Apple. Or they are personal pet projects which could fade and die at any time. Brave is the first browser that I know of that is, by design, not allowing tracking and ads and therefore not monetising your browsing. And yet they have a very interesting business plan… involving the blockchain and utility tokens, two concepts that are hitting the headlines with a lot of hype and not much action. But this could be one of the exceptions, being a token, BAT, that has a real world use. The token sold out within 30 seconds of being issued for a total of $36m (although it should be noted that over half of the tokens are owned by five addresses).

A bonus feature is built in HTTPS Everywhere. Like all features, it can be toggled off for some sites through the easily accessible Brave Shields Panel. This is a great security feature.

BAT

These tokens will be used to facilitate payments within the Brave browser system, to transfer value between users, publishers and advertisers. It’s a token based on the Ethereum blockchain.

This is a very interesting feature of the Brave browser, it includes a means of rewarding site creators. We all want content for free, right? But real people don’t work for nothing and they will want to get some return for their labour. And for most sites, unless they run a paywall, this means selling ads and data (monetising your attention as it’s known). So if you create a browser that blocks ads, how will the site creators get paid? Well, Brave figures that by leveraging the blockchain they can provide micropayments using the Basic Attention Token (or BAT). These can be either automatic, or you can choose which sites will receive payment. The amount that a publisher receives will depend on the “amount of attention” the site receives, metric that is still being fine tuned with publishers and advertisers. For advertisers, they will still be paying for advertising space but there will far more transparency and less

As I understand it, the advertisers pay in to the BAT system. This then gets split between the content creators and the users. There is no transfer of personal information between my browser and the other players in the system.

Free money!

Potentially, users of the Brave browser will be getting some free money, although I’m not planning on retiring early on it. There is a user growth pool of 300 million tokens which will be given to early adopters of the Brave/BAT system, in order to stimulate platform uptake. However, there is no direct way of disbursing the BAT from the wallet as yet.

Current value of a BAT is 3.2 finney (or 0.000032 BTC or €0.23) and on my last payout, a website publisher received, on average, 0.54 BAT. But given that the site may have had a million visitors over the month, that could work out to 1m x €0.12. Not a bad income.

Summary

Brave is still in Beta as I write and there are glitches and crashes but they are occasional and I’m happy having it set as my default browser. And the same on my Android devices, where it makes a big difference to loading times and connection speeds (and data load of course). Plus, with the recent debacle around Facebook selling off it’s data to firms like Cambridge Analytica, my privacy is becoming more important to me.