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Twitter users now can send and receive tips with the Brave browser

And other Twitter users can tip you back. The system is coming to Reddit, Vimeo and Github soon.

Brave's basic attention token (BAT) is a cryptocurrency-like token used for paying publishers that place ads, users that see them, and enabling other transactions like tipping Twitter users.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Liking tweets and retweeting them are fine ways to support your favorite Twitter personalities. But you know what's better? Cash. And now the Brave browser lets you put your money where your mouse is. 

Brave has built a Twitter tipping system into the newest version of the ad-blocking browser, released Thursday for Windows, MacOS and Linux. The online gratuity service, which modifies each tweet with a "tip" icon, should be available for Android and iOS in a few months.

The tipping system goes both ways. Brave users who like your tweets can tip you, too. Brave plans three more channels for individuals who want to tip or be tipped: the Reddit discussion forum, the GitHub programming site and the Vimeo video site.

Twitter tipping is a bit more complicated than tossing a buck into a jar, though, since it relies on Brave's cryptocurrency-like payment technology called the basic attention token (BAT). Brave already lets you contribute BAT to website publishers, YouTubers and Twitch videogame streamers, and anyone receiving BAT can convert it into ordinary money.

Tipping is important "to connect users directly to their favorite creators," Brendan Eich, Brave's chief executive and co-founder, said in an email interview.

Brave's introduction of Twitter tipping is part of a broader move toward direct funding of people who publish useful, interesting and entertaining information on the web. Facebook is testing subscriptions and YouTube has its channel memberships, both starting at $5 a month. Often there are strings attached, though -- for example, YouTube won't let you offer channel membership unless you have 30,000 subscribers, and the companies offering the platforms take a cut of the revenue -- 30% in the case of YouTube, 5% for Brave's Twitter tips.

It's all a significant change in the way web publishers have historically financed themselves. Ads foot the bill for everything from Instagram to Google search. But they bring problems, including fraudulent clicks, slow performance, shorter battery life and, most notably, invasions of privacy as advertisers follow you around the web. A direct payment relationship between creator and consumer can sidestep much of the trouble.

Kick-starting Brave's BAT system

Brave's browser lets you send tips to Twitter users without having to go to a site like Patreon. Note the "tip" button to the lower right. It uses Brave's BAT system, though, not regular money.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Given how many people use Twitter -- 139 million each day, according to the company -- tipping makes a significant expansion of Brave's effort to build a system that rewards good online content. If enough people sign up, it could help kick-start Brave's broader ambitions to build a BAT system for privacy-respecting online advertising.

Brave's BAT-powered system also is instrumental to its own ad technology that's built into Brave for PCs and Android. Brave sends 70% of revenue generated from those ads to people using Brave. It's all part of Brave's effort to fund web publishing that doesn't stomp on everyone's privacy.

Brave is also working on ways to convert BAT for use in gift cards or access to news stories behind a paywall, for example. And the company is working on expanding the technology so other software companies can plug into the BAT system.

Brave is giving out 100,000 BAT to people using Brave on their PCs in areas where the startup doesn't currently show ads, the company also announced. As with Twitter tips, most people shouldn't expect to get rich quick: each BAT grant is worth about $1.

Twitter declined to comment.

How to tip Twitter users with Brave

It's pretty simple to tip your favorite tweeters through Brave. Click the "tip" link below a tweet when you're visiting Twitter's website. A "tip amount" dialog box will appear along with the option to tip 1, 5 or 10 BAT. You can send a onetime tip or set up a monthly payment.

If you want to use Brave's tipping system, though, you have to enable the Brave Rewards system, which can give you BAT for looking at ads and send that BAT back to creators. To enable it, click the triangular orange and purple BAT icon in the address bar.

There are three ways to get the BAT you'll need to send tips or other contributions. You can add your own money with the "add funds" option in the BAT menu, wait for Brave to grant you some freebie BAT, or enable Brave ads. In areas where Brave shows ads, such as the United States, it no longer offers grants.

Reddit, Vimeo and GitHub tipping is in test versions of Brave. They'll arrive for everyone in coming weeks, with Reddit and Vimeo appearing first, Brave said.

If you tip somebody who hasn't signed up for the system, the Brave browser will hold onto the BAT for 90 days. If the person doesn't sign up in that period, the BAT becomes available to you again.

How to receive Brave tips

Receiving BAT -- from Twitter tips or other Brave payments -- is more complicated. First, you have to sign up as a creator through the Brave creators website. If you've already signed up as a creator, you can log in and add Twitter as a channel.

To convert BAT tips to ordinary money, you'll have to sign up with Brave's cryptocurrency exchange partner, Uphold, and verify your identity. Twitter tips through Brave are anonymous, but proving your identity before converting to cash is necessary. Without Uphold's identification process, "we'd be defrauded into the ground and stopped cold by regulators in many regions," Eich tweeted.

To withdraw BAT so you can convert it to regular money, you have to verify your wallet with cryptocurrency exchange Uphold.

To withdraw BAT so you can convert it to regular money, you have to verify your wallet with cryptocurrency exchange Uphold.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

About 60,000 people are now verified creators, Brave said. That's a tiny fraction of the number of people who participate on YouTube, Twitch and Twitter and through their own websites, but the number is steadily growing.

Disclosure: I transferred some bitcoin into my Brave wallet for testing when Brave launched its payments system in 2016. That later was converted into BAT. After that initial purchase, Brave's grants, BAT from ads I've seen and BAT Brave has transferred to websites and other publishers, I now have a BAT balance worth $32.57. I have received no bitcoin or BAT from Brave aside from $3.68 worth of BAT to test the tipping system.