Brave is the default browser on obscure HTC crypto-phone

It's a foot in the door for the ad-blocking web browser.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read

HTC Exodus 1


The good news for Brave: its ad-blocking web browser is now the default option for surfing the net on a phone from a major phone maker, HTC. The bad news: it's the HTC Exodus 1, a niche product aimed at cryptocurrency fans who've grown scarcer with bitcoin's plunging value.

Chief Executive Brendan Eich, co-founder of Brave and previously Firefox maker Mozilla, revealed the partnership in a tweet over the weekend. "We are very happy to have Brave as default browser & to be working with HTC on their Exodus phone," he tweeted.

Brave declined to detail the business or technical aspects of the partnership. But deals like it can be important for promoting browsers that typically generate revenue based on how much traffic they send to search engines. Indeed, Google doesn't have to share search revenue generated by the Chrome browser, which is the default on many Android phones.

The Exodus 1 is designed to work with a variety of cryptocurrencies and their related blockchain underpinnings, including bitcoin, Ethereum Project and Dfinity, according to Phil Chen, HTC's "decentralized chief officer." His title is a nod to the founding principles of cryptocurrency, the idea that transaction processing can be accomplished with a network of computers independent of central authorities like banks.

That idea has been appealing to so-called crypto-anarchists who are skeptical of banks and governments. And for a time it appealed to a broader population excited by bitcoin's surging value. That mainstream excitement has evaporated along with the value of bitcoin. Today a bitcoin is worth $3,477, down $15,060 a year ago.

Brave uses the cryptocurrency foundations itself to handle payment accounting for an online advertising system it's building. In testing scheduled to begin this year, its basic attention token (BAT) will be used to send advertisers' payments to Brave and to Brave users who opt into the system. The company also plans partnerships with publishers that will send advertisers' payments to publishers, Brave and Brave users.

The BAT payment system, called Brave Rewards, already lets Brave users fund the websites they visit, as well as YouTubers and Twitch videogame streamers. Brave supplies BAT to browser users to fund those donations. To receive BAT payments, those publishers must register with Brave's system, after which they can convert BAT to ordinary money.

Brave's approach is partly what appealed to HTC, Chen said in a statement.

"It is challenging the incumbent web ... advertisement-trade-for-attention model that has crippled the internet browsing experience," he said. "We're at a crisis of giving that away for cheap endorphins and surrendering all that power to the big-data monolithic cloud companies that mine that data."

The Exodus's built-in wallet technology is compatible with Brave's BAT, he added. He didn't detail terms of the partnership.

Brave intends BAT to be a "utility token" rather than a general-purpose cryptocurrency, but you can buy BAT on cryptocurrency exchanges. BAT's value hasn't fallen as much as bitcoin's, dropping from about 17 cents a year ago to 14 cents today.

Brave has about 4.7 million users on Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS and Linux devices, the company said.

First published Dec. 10, 11:03 a.m. PT.
Update, Dec. 11 12:11 p.m. PT: Adds comment from HTC.

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