This Blockchain-Powered Privacy Browser Wants to Pay You to Surf the Web

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For years, the unspoken and surreptitious agreement across the internet has been that users access free content and services (yay, gameplay walkthroughs!) in exchange for providing their personal information and consuming ads (boo forfeiting your entire browser history and first-born child). It’s a model that has thrived in the past decade, with digital advertising behemoths Facebook and Google reaping the benefits, skyrocketing in both market cap and dominance in how content is distributed and consumed across the entire internet.

However, this model has shown cracks in the past few years. The Cambridge Analytica scandal unveiled the dark underbelly of how our data can be used against us. And though that breach warranted significant change, it's already happening again at Facebook HQ. Now, content creators are finding it harder and harder to fully monetize through traditional display advertising revenue, seeking out alternative models such as Patreon and Twitch tipping—services that allow users to pay their favorite content creators directly to sidestep the Facebooks and YouTubes.

One blockchain project, Brave, is looking to solve privacy and monetization issues for users and content creators alike by automatically blocking intrusive ads and creating an entirely new currency to be used across the internet. Plus, it promises to actually pay users to simply browse the internet.

What is Brave?

Brave is a free internet browser (like Chrome and Firefox) on mobile and desktop that boasts speeds two to eight times faster than their competitors and prevent your personal location/behavior/browsing activities from being shared without your consent. Brave plans to strip sites of their ads and replace them with ads via their own display advertising network.

How do they achieve this?

Brave automatically blocks ads and trackers that live natively on pages across the internet. Popular sites, like Twitter, host upwards of 70 trackers per site.

Courtesy of Brave

So the experience is totally ad-free?

Not necessarily. Users can opt in to seeing ads as they browse the internet, and in return, receive 70 percent of the ad revenue from the ads they are served in the form of a cryptocurrency called Basic Attention Token (BAT). The ads that are supported on the site will be private ads, so they are not dependent on first-party data.

This feature is still under development, so you won't get paid to browse the internet just yet.

Cryptocurrency? Like Bitcoin?

Yes and no. BAT was built using the Ethereum blockchain. There are one billion BAT in circulation and the supply will never change. This property is similar to Bitcoin. The difference is that Bitcoin does not have an underlying service aside from the blockchain itself to prop up its value. The Brave project provides an instant use case for BAT and, as such, the success of the project itself is what primarily gives BAT value. You can currently buy and sell BAT like any other cryptocurrency on the major crypto exchanges. One BAT is currently worth about 17 cents, thus, all the BAT in existence are worth about $170 Million.

So then how do publishers make money?

Through BAT as well! Users can individually set their monthly budget to pay out publishers using the BAT in their accounts. Users can either purchase BAT to use, or simply use the BAT they earn from opting-in to ads to pay out their favorite publishers. The browser automatically calculates the time users spend on each website that accepts Brave Payments and then divides up their monthly budget proportionally to those sites. Publishers can convert BAT into ordinary money automatically.

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Courtesy of Brave

Today, Brave has more than 20,000 verified publishers on board, including newspapers like the Guardian and Washington Post.

How do you buy BAT?

The browser does not yet support direct purchases of BAT with a credit card/bank account; however, this functionality is on the roadmap for the near future. Your only options to buy BAT at the moment is by using another cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin) either on a crypto exchange or through the Brave browser directly. Brave currently offers free BAT to new users as an introductory promotion. Therefore, most of the current users are crypto nerds (for now).

What else can BAT be used for?

BAT can also be used to redeem premium content, subscriptions, digital goods and services, donated, or transferred to another user.

Why should I believe in the project?

The reasons to give it a try are pretty numerous.

- Users across the internet are becoming more and more wary of their data being collected and sold under their noses. 

- The increase in the usage of ad-blocking extensions show that the display ad experience has become too disruptive, and offers no benefit to the user experience. 

- The experience of Brave is faster and less obtrusive than current mobile/desktop browsers.

- It literally pays users just to browse the internet like they do every day.

- The rise of Patreon/Twitch tipping shows that users are warming up to paying content-creators.

- Oh, and did we mention it's free?

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