A bold plan to rid the web of obnoxious advertising just came one step closer to reality.
Browser maker Brave said Monday that it has raised a seed round of $4.5 million, money that will go toward its browser and its technology for replacing conventional web ads with its own. The investors are Founders Fund, the high-profile venture capitalist firm run by Peter Thiel, as well as Propel Venture Partners, Pantera Capital, Foundation Capital and Digital Currency Group.
Brave is trying to make a business by solving a thorny issue on the web: Many sites are supported by advertising, but that advertising slows down computers, drains phone batteries, tracks users and sometimes installs malware on people's machines. People by the millions are installing ad blockers as a result, but Brave hopes to find a middle ground to accommodate those showing ads and those seeing them.
If it works, it could liberate you from the worst ads while still letting you benefit from free websites.
"I'm like Capt. Kirk in the Kobayashi Maru test. I don't believe in a no-win scenario," Brave Chief Executive Brendan Eich said.
Brave will have to work to woo angered publishers, though. Brave blocks ads from websites and eventually will insert new ads targeted toward user interests by software running in the browser itself. Those ads won't affect page performance or come with privacy concerns. Brave will share ad revenue with publishers -- and with the people using its browser.
Brave is still in testing on Windows and Mac computers and on Apple and Android mobile devices. But the startup plans to release version 1.0 by September. It plans to increase its staff to about 20 by year's end, Eich said.
In August, Brave plans to begin testing a bitcoin-based system that will let Brave users contribute money directly to publishers. That system later will be used to distribute ad revenue to Brave users and publishers. Later this year, Brave hopes to have its first publishing partners signed up to test the waters, Eich said.
Launching a new browser that competes with those from giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft is hard, but Eich has experience in the market as a co-founder of Firefox maker Mozilla. Eich wouldn't say how many Brave users there are yet, but his competitors have hundreds of millions.
Eich said he's pleased to have raised money from the VC firm founded by Thiel, the iconoclast who alone among Silicon Valley notables endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Eich, too, is no stranger to going against the Silicon Valley grain. His $1,000 donation in 2008 to an anti-gay-marriage cause led to a political firestorm that ultimately cost him his job as Mozilla chief executive in 2014.