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Brave browser begins million-dollar token giveaway

You won't get more than about $5 worth of tokens, but the browser maker hopes you'll help improve online advertising privacy.

Brave browser logo

Brave

Browser maker Brave is handing out about $1 million worth of cryptocurrency-backed tokens it hopes will help build a better online advertising system.

Brave developed a technology called the Basic Attention Token (BAT) designed to pay publishers, YouTube contributors and others who today rely on advertising revenue or subscription payments. For now, you can set up Brave to send BATs to websites you visit, but in the future, Brave plans to make BATs a currency for online ads.

To get the tokens, you have to be one of the 200,000 or so people who install or run the latest personal computer version of the browser and accept the grant of BAT. With more than a million Brave users each month (a tiny fraction of better established browsers), you aren't guaranteed one of the $5 freebies, but Brave plans more promotional grants.

Brave, led by Mozilla and Firefox co-founder Brendan Eich, is part of a movement to make browsers more assertive on our behalf. Brave blocks ads and ad trackers by default, which can make websites load faster, save your battery, cut your data usage, keep your online behavior out of advertisers' hands and even protect against malware. Chrome, Safari and Firefox are all taking various measures to rein in ads, though none go as far as Brave.

Nuking ads is gratifying if you find them intrusive, but of course ads also pay the bills at websites large and small. Would you pay $10 a month to use an ad-free Facebook?

Brave isn't out to destroy online advertising, though -- only to replace today's system, in which the browser itself targets the ads toward your interests without sharing private details with anyone else. It hasn't begun showing ads yet.

Brave is giving about $5 worth of its Basic Attention Tokens to each of 200,000 people using its browser on personal computers. It then sends those BATs as payments to website publishers and YouTube stars.

Brave

To distribute BATs to publishers you might want to help fund, you can buy them online -- or accept a promotional grant like Wednesday's from Brave. The company set aside 300 million of them in a "user growth pool" to lure individuals, advertisers and publishers into the BAT ad economy. But unusually for online ad tech, Brave will give you a cut of the online ad revenue, too.

You can't convert BATs into bucks unless you're a publisher, though. So don't expect to cash in directly from Brave's BAT promotion.

Its system is powered by the technology of cryptocurrency -- specifically by the Ethereum Project's ether. Casual users don't need to know the inner workings. Brave can take the BAT you've earned from online ads and distribute it to websites and publishers automatically depending on how often you visit various sites. More than 2,500 websites so far have signed up to receive BAT payments.

YouTube stars also can sign up to receive BAT payments -- something could be of interest given YouTube's tightening rules for who can get ad revenue -- and Brave plans to expand to those who post videos on the Twitch game-watching site, too. So far more than 1,400 YouTube publishers have signed up to receive BAT. It's not yet clear how much revenue they'll receive from the 310,000 or so people who use the PC version of the browser, but as ad blocking spreads, BAT payments could help offset lost ad revenue.

Correction, 10:25 p.m. PT: This story originally cited an incorrect number of BATs that Brave set aside in the "user growth pool." The correct number is 300 million. .

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