Daniel Colin James

Developer / Writer

Your next browser will pay you

The creator of JavaScript is building a browser that will change the economics of the internet.

Illustration by Mandela Smith

You’re about to witness a revolution. Google and Facebook amass staggering amounts of money by harvesting your data and charging advertisers for your attention, but that’s going to change very soon.

The power is about to shift from the tech giants of Silicon Valley to the foot soldiers of the internet: me and you.

The internet is broken

“The system is failing.” — Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the web) on how digital advertising is ruining the web.

Advertising has become the most common way to monetize free content on the internet today. The system used to be simple, with advertisers, users, and publishers. Today, the digital advertising industry is overrun by numerous layers of complicated services.

Marketing and data science guru Sam Carter of Fospha (a marketing analytics company that helps marketers make sense of disparate data to acquire more customers cost-effectively) explains: “Digital advertising has become so complex that trying to make sense of ROI and the impact on actual business results feels like rocket science.”

The display advertising LUMAscape.

Every column in this unsightly graphic represents a different kind of middleman service which takes its own cut of advertising revenue, making advertising more expensive for brands, more annoying for you, and less profitable for publishers.

A “simplified” graphic from a video by the Interactive Advertising Bureau showing the complicated process by which ads are displayed alongside web content.

Users are not happy

The point is: you’re paying to be bothered by ads. Ads and trackers cost you as much as $23 a month on your mobile phone bill, and when you’re not paying in bandwidth, you’re paying in attention, privacy, and often security.

Source: PageFair’s 2017 Adblock Report

Users have responded by installing ad blocking software in droves; more than 600 million devices are now blocking ads, with penetration at 30% in the United States. Those numbers are increasing every year. Mobile ad block usage has exploded in Asia and will soon spread to North America and Europe.

Publishers are not happy

Ad blocking solves problems for users, but it makes them unreachable by advertisers, and actively hurts publishers and content creators who rely on advertising. The war between advertisers and ad blockers has been widely acknowledged for several years as a never-ending arms race.

Source: Pew Research

Publisher revenues have been falling steadily for a long time, but this decline in revenue is only the tip of the iceberg; the problems go much deeper. Google and Facebook are capturing 99% of all growth in advertising revenue, and actively making it more difficult for publishers to thrive.

“Businesses are increasingly relying on Facebook and Google to find customers, but the cost of using their platforms is rising. Customers and advertisers have little control if they’re only using the data supplied to them by these companies.” — Sam Carter, CEO of Fospha

Advertisers are not happy

Despite the purported precision of modern advertising technology, tracking and targeting are still primitive, as anyone who has purchased something on Amazon and then had ads for that item follow them around the internet can attest.

It is a constant challenge for marketers to make sense of the complicated troves of data that advertising platforms currently provide.

Source: Dr. Augustine Fou — Independent Ad Fraud Researcher

Problems for advertisers are compounded by shocking amounts of ad fraud.

The same things that made digital advertising powerful have made it manipulable by fraudsters.

One out of every five dollars spent on digital advertising is wasted on fraudulent clicks and impressions.

According to one independent ad fraud researcher’s reports, ad fraud might be even worse than anyone thinks, since so much of it goes undetected.

“However you feel about the use of advertising… the sight of grown men in diapers rolling around in the sand in the hope that an algorithm that they don’t really understand will give them money for it suggests that this probably isn’t the thing that we should be basing our society and culture upon
— Writer and artist James Bridle in his TED talk about the horrors of children’s YouTube

The future is Brave

Digital advertising brings in more than $200B every year— it’s not going away any time soon. Revenues from digital ads are the financial foundation upon which today’s internet is built, but the system is fraught with fraud, convoluted and confusing, and absolutely hostile against the people reading articles, watching videos, and playing games. The system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Enter Brave.

Brave represents a complete rethinking of the structure of the internet.

Step 1: Navigate around the broken system

The first step toward a better system is to stop supporting the current broken one. Since the ad-tech industry has proven incapable of self-policing, this must be done at the user level, with their portal to the internet: the browser.

Brave blocks all ads and tracking by default. Brave’s ad blocking cannot be easily avoided either. The use of machine learning to recognize ads instead of maintaining a blacklist of ad providers will put an end to the so-called arms race.

Users of Brave will instantly see massive speed and safety improvements, especially on mobile. Web pages viewed through Brave are two times faster on desktop and up to eight (!) times faster on mobile.

Step 2: Build a better system

The next step is a new paradigm of advertising that gives everyone what they want. Users get a faster, safer, more private browsing experience, publishers get more revenue, and advertisers get more for their money. A tall order.

Optional & Private

By default, ads and tracking will be turned off. Brave Ads will always be opt-in, so if you don’t want to see any advertising, you can just use Brave to experience an internet without ads.

If you do opt-in, all advertising is private. Brave will never have access to your personal data, and neither will advertisers.

Local & Accurate

Instead of bogging down every website you visit, Brave Ads will be served through the browser. There will be two kinds of Brave Ads: user ads, which will show up as a notification and then open in a private tab if you’re interested, and publisher ads, which will show up alongside web content like traditional ads.

Brave can understand you and your preferences at the browser level, so Brave Ads will be smarter, more accurate, and more effective than anything possible today. Advertisers will get more value for their money, and extremely detailed analytics on the effectiveness of their ads.

Fair & Smart

You, the user, will get a piece of the pie. With regular display ads, you’ll receive 15% of the revenue generated, and 70% goes to the publisher. With ads shown directly to you through the browser, you’ll receive 70% of the revenue. With Brave, you’ll get paid for your attention.

Brave will also allow you to automatically contribute some of your earned tokens back to the sites and creators whose content you enjoy.

Instead of using dollars to move all this money around, Brave uses a smart, secure internet currency (a cryptocurrency) called the Basic Attention Token as its medium of exchange. The BAT denotes — and can be exchanged for — attention.

Step 3: Change the internet forever

Here’s where the big picture comes into play. Brave is ultimately just the launchpad for the Basic Attention Token. Once the private ads model has been proven by Brave, the team will make it easy for developers to integrate the Basic Attention Token into everything from messaging apps and mobile games to podcasts and video streaming services.

Imagine that you’re shopping for a car, and you’re trying to decide between BMW and Mercedes. You have tabs open for both companies, and you’ve set up a test drive with BMW for 1PM on Saturday. Mercedes will pay around $70 for a lead that will take a test drive at their home two hours earlier. In this scenario, you would get paid $49 worth of BAT, which you could put toward your content subscriptions, or use to tip your favourite websites and content creators.

This example is obviously an outlier scenario (taken from Brave’s CEO here), and you cannot expect to earn a full-time salary from watching ads all day, but hopefully it helps illustrate the power of this system. Instead of paying Facebook and Google to get your attention, advertisers would be paying publishers, Brave, and you.

Can this actually work?

This is all very ambitious, and by now you probably have some doubts about the project. Let me quell them.

Who is Brave?

The person leading this project is the creator of JavaScript and the co-founder of Mozilla and Firefox: Brendan Eich. The team is already 60+ strong, growing constantly, and full of people with decades of expertise. Who better to reform the web than a group of its pioneers?

Chrome wasn’t built in a day

Back when people widely agreed that Microsoft had won the first Browser War, an open-source project called Firefox proved itself a serious threat to Internet Explorer. Firefox showed the world that Internet Explorer wasn’t invincible, and paved the way for Google’s now omnipresent Chrome browser.

Google Chrome today has about 60% of the worldwide browser market, which means it is the browser of choice for over a billion internet users. It won’t be easy to take down the big-tech-backed reigning king, but Brendan Eich has already done it once.

The writing is on the wall

Brave already has 4 million monthly active users, and the software hasn’t even reached version 1.0. Things will only speed up from here.

Users will embrace Brave because it is the only browser that puts their interests first, and because publishers and content creators will promote it to them.

Publishers will join the ecosystem to claim their BAT donated by Brave users, and realize that they can earn more money with Brave Ads than the alternatives, finally ending their cat and mouse game with ad blocking users.

Advertisers are always looking for the best way to maximize return on investment, and Brave will prove to be the most effective and cost efficient way to advertise, and finally give them more powerful analytics and a way to reach previously unreachable demographics.

Everyone will soon be beating a path to Brave’s door, but the real exponential growth will come from the network effect. Brave will be the cool new browser that’s super fast and pays you. It will be the browser that you install on everything from your work computer to your grandmother’s iPad.

The Basic Attention Token will become a new standard of attention based apps, and the internet will be faster, safer, and fairer.

This is the future of the internet. Pay attention. Literally.

Thanks for your attention.
If you’d like to try Brave, you can download it here, using my referral link.
(Or here, if you don’t want to use my referral link. You can also preview how the ads will work with this version.)
“Please clap.” —Jeb!

If you liked this, you should follow me for the next one, or check out my last story.

Claps are hugely appreciated!

Disclaimers:
1. This piece was commissioned by Fospha, but all views and opinions expressed here are my own.
2. I own a small number of Basic Attention Tokens.

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