Is your phone listening? Does Facebook know something you’ve never shared? Is the NSA monitoring your searches RIGHT NOW? The web is full of conspiracy-minded anecdotes of people finding themselves targeted for ads for products which they had only mentioned in conversation.
And while there’s probably no eavesdropping there, targeting algorithms are really good at telling what you’re into. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than letting someone borrow your phone and then being asked why all your ads are for Nickelback.
Now there’s a crypto solution to those nosy trackers. The Brave Browser, which runs on the Basic Attention Token, recently reached three million regular users and is on track to reach five million. A jubilant press release, posted to the BAT website, boasted further milestones: Top Ten on Google Play in several markets, and over ten thousand verified publishers.
That might come as a bit of a surprise, especially if you’re one of those who (like the author) found early versions clunky and hard to use. Since then, the product has taken a lot of polish.
How Brave Works
Brave offers a simple solution to a complicated problem. The browser itself is based on Chromium, the open-source skeleton of Google’s browser. But instead of needing five or six plugins to keep your traffic protected, Brave handles security for you: third-party ads and trackers are blocked by default, and all connections use HTTPS. For extra privacy, Tor is included as well…
You don’t realize how many ads you’re getting until you’ve used Brave for an hour. There’s no worry about your data, because there’s no data to sell; Brave doesn’t see any of your guilty clicks. Plus, you no longer have to sit through five-second videos when you’re on a limited data plan.
Then there’s the crypto aspect, which is subtly kept in the background. Unlike other projects, you don’t need to know about tokens or private keys. In fact, you might not even realize it involves cryptocurrency at all.
We’ve previously discussed Oyster’s roundabout system of replacing ad revenue with in-browser mining for data storage. Brave’s solution is much simpler. You choose which ads you want to see, and if you feel a bit guilty, you can reward your favorite content providers in the BAT token. Publishers can trade their payments for other coins, or for fiat via the Uphold wallet.
The network is still fragile. To incentivize payments, and water the sparse ecosystem, the BAT project gives each user a one-time honorarium for their favorite publishers. That’s another plus: it’s the only browser that (sort of) pays you to use it.
Brave is the only browser that pays you to use it.
So what’s the Catch?
There are a few drawbacks to the Brave browser, most of which relate to its early stage of development.
One of the advantages of Chrome is how seamlessly it synchronizes passwords, bookmarks, and plugins across devices. Brave isn’t there, at least not yet.
Then there’s the mobile version, which comes with quite a bit less out-of-the-box functionality. It still blocks ads, but it doesn’t have Brave Payments and Tor tabs.
Shortfalls aside, the project has come a long way, and it’s no surprise that it’s gaining popularity. There’s still a long road ahead to go, if Brave is to develop into a ecosystem between publishers and viewers, rather than an esoteric form of Adblock.
Meanwhile, it does deliver a faster, less annoying experience, and seems to be on track towards the holy grail of cryptocurrency: a project that’s actually easy to use.
The author does not own any BAT, but he has other tokens.