The Batify extension for Chrome and for Firefox keeps tabs on what websites you visit and routes anonymous monthly payments to them depending on how many times you visit each and how much time you spend there. It relies on Brave Software's system for publisher authentication, though, and the vast majority of publishers aren't registered to receive payments.
It's an early sign that Brave isn't the only one interested in a new way to fund online publishers -- in the form of the basic attention token (BAT), not actual dollars or pounds or euros.
"I don't earn anything," said Batify developer Michael Volz, who's also working on an Opera version of the extension. "I did this because I'm fascinated by the idea of Brave and BAT, liked the technical challenge and wanted to contribute to the ecosystem."
The idea of paying for stuff that's free online may surprise you, but it happens. In an age when we're tired of ads or worried about just exactly how free sites are using our personal information (looking at you, Facebook and Cambridge Analytica), paying for what you like offers a refreshingly honest relationship between audience and content producer.
BAT is based on the same blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether. Brave is funded in large measure by a sale of BAT that raised tens of millions of dollars in 2017. But BAT's point isn't to be a general-purpose cryptocurrency, just a way advertisers and readers can pay publishers. And the startup wants its BAT payment network eventually to spread beyond its own browser.
"We're pleased to see such developer experimentation as we've always envisioned BAT as a technology that can be used outside of the Brave browser," the company said in a statement. "In the future, we plan to make a supported [programming interface] available for use in other products to fuel the growth of the BAT ecosystem."
Before you jump in too far, be aware that for now the wallet system Batify and Brave use is one-way for ordinary browser users. In other words, you can fund the wallet but not retrieve your money for now, only donate it to publishers.
Brave blocks ads and behavior-tracking software that's common on the web by default, but it also lets you set up contributions to online publishers. Those contributions today are funded by Brave giveaways and whatever you choose to pay out of your own pocket, but eventually Brave expects to offer to to show ads that can supply funding, too. Those ads will be targeted by the browser itself to protect privacy but it won't be enabled by default.
First published March 20, 5 a.m. PT
Update, 10:25 a.m.: Adds that the Firefox extension now is available, too.
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