Brave Browser Launches Bitcoin Micropayments For Rewarding User-Preferred Websites

Brave, a web browser that blocks third-party trackers and ads, has introduced a beta version of its bitcoin-based payment system that automatically pays the websites that users want to support.

Brave Payments allows users to reward sites for content they like without being tracked.

The beta was announced in a blog by Brendan Eich, Brave’s owner, who helped build the Mozilla web browser and created JavaScript.

Eich noted web users are frustrated with the pervasive advertising technology ecosystem that slows data connections and clogs web pages with tracking pixels, scripts and ads. Users are looking to support those websites they choose to support.

Payments System: The Next Step

Brave’s browser blocks impression tracking pixels, ad-click confirmation signals, and initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising.

Brave Payments calculates how often a user visits websites, then allocates bitcoin to those sites the user wants to support from the user’s pre-funded bitcoin wallet. Users can send payments to sites of their choosing at whatever level of support they choose.

How It Works

The Brave Payments user interface allows the user to select the sites they wish to support by disabling or enabling funding for all sites they visit.

Contributions from users are sent to a bitcoin escrow wallet managed by Brave. When bitcoin contributions to a website equal $100 USD, the system emails the site’s webmaster and the registered domain owner, launching the publisher’s verification process. The email explains how the publisher verifies their bitcoin wallet. For publishers that don’t have a bitcoin wallet, the email explains how to create one.

The browser provides users with a free BitGo bitcoin wallet. Users can also fund a wallet through Coinbase.

Publishers collect their funds after verifying themselves. The escrow fund expires after 30 days following three attempts to launch the verification process. The funds are then redistributed to all sites that finished the verification process using the combined total Brave user assigned percentages for the given payment period.

Users are notified when their contribution is processed 30 days after their last reconciliation or the creation of their Brave wallet, which is their first reconciliation. If their Brave wallet balance is less than 90% of the user’s selected monthly contribution, the browser sends an alert inviting the user to add funds.

Brave takes a 5% fee from the donations to support the infrastructure.

Brave believes it will help reform the ad-tech ecosystem by providing website content creators and browser users an equitable arrangement. The goal is to reward users a revenue share in exchange for their attention.

Key Feature: User Anonymity

A key feature of the system is that the user’s data is kept anonymous. It is not necessary for the user to disclose their identity. No entity, including Brave, can connect browsing page views to payments.

Brave servers do not hold custody of users’ funds. Brave does not have a key to a user’s multi-signature wallet. This makes it impossible to steal funds from user wallets by attacking Brave’s servers. Private Internet Access masks the Internet Protocol addresses of Brave’s users from Brave’s own servers.

The payments code is open source, supporting auditing and verification.

Brave hopes to eventually support a truly private, decentralized standard for web payments.

Future: Standardized Payments

Long-term, Eich would like to see a “cross-browser” added to the web’s specifications to allow standardized mircopayments. He believes this will take years, however.

In the meantime, Brave Payments allows integrating bitcoin “under the hood,” along with more secure and faster tracker-free and ad-free browsing.

For users to be able to reward their favorite sites, however, the publishers will need to participate. Brave hasn’t finalized arrangements with any publishers to actually deliver the donations yet, according to Wired.

Readability, “read-it-later” service, abandoned such a plan in 2012 since not enough publishers claimed their payments, according to Wired.

User reception to ad blocker services may be improving. A study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found about 26 percent of survey respondents use ad blockers desktop and laptop computers and around 15 percent use them on mobile devices.

As ad-blocking increases, publishers might be more open to business arrangements they previously rejected.

Also read: Brave browser seeks to revamp web ad revenue model using bitcoin

Will Publishers Cooperate?

Not all signs point to cooperation.

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has sued Brave, claiming its plan to replace publishers’ ads on their own websites with Brave’s advertising is illegal, a charge that Brave has denied, reported in April. The NAA claims to have 17 member companies and more than 1,200 newspapers.

The NAA said its sites and mobile applications give news reporting, video content, feature writing and photojournalism that is edited, researched and produced at “extraordinary” cost. The industry spends more than $5 billion per year on reporting in the U.S., and it distributes it online for free or at “highly subsidized rates” with online ad revenue.

Brave’s plan to allow customers to make bitcoin donations to NAA’s websites and for Brave to donate an unstated percentage of its revenue from the sale of ads to the NAA’s websites does not begin to compensate for the loss of its ability to fund its work by displaying its own advertising, NAA said.

Brave claimed it is not replacing publishers’ ads on publishers’ websites and mobile apps with Brave’s own advertising. Brave said it does not tamper with any first-party publisher content, such as native ads that don’t use third-party tracking.

Images from Brave.

Last modified: July 13, 2020 3:14 AM UTC

September 2, 2016 7:57 AM UTC
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Lester Coleman

Lester Coleman is a media relations consultant for the payments and automated retailing industries.