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Ad-blocking Brave browser to give crypto-payment tokens to everyone

The startup plans to open the spigot for its BAT cryptocurrency to help promote use of its system for privacy-first online ads.

The Brave browser's basic attention token (BAT) technology is designed to let advertisers pay publishers.

The Brave browser's basic attention token (BAT) technology is designed to let advertisers pay publishers. Brave users also will get a cut if they sign up to see ads.

Brave

Startup Brave soon will give cryptocurrency-like payment tokens to anyone using the ad-blocking web browser, a move that won't let you line your own pockets but that will make it easier to fund the websites you visit.

Brave developed the basic attention token (BAT) as an alternative to regular money for the payments that flow from advertiser to website publishers. Brave plans to use BAT more broadly, though, for example also sending a portion of advertising revenue to you if you're using Brave and letting you spend BAT for premium content like news articles that otherwise would be behind a subscription paywall.

Most of that is in the future, though. Today, Brave can send BAT to website publishers, YouTubers and Twitch videogame streamers, all of whom can convert that BAT into ordinary money once they're verified. You can buy BAT on your own, but Brave has given away millions of dollars' worth through a few promotions. The next phase of the plan, though, is just to automatically lavish BAT on anyone using Brave, so you won't have to fret that you missed a promotional giveaway.

"We're getting to the point where we're giving users BAT all the time. We don't think we'll run out. We think users should get it," CEO and former Firefox leader Brendan Eich said. "We're going to do it continually."

The BAT giveaway plan is an important new phase in Brave's effort to salvage what's good about advertising on the internet -- free access to useful or entertaining services like Facebook, Google search and YouTube -- without downsides like privacy invasion and the sorts of political manipulations that Facebook partner Cambridge Analytica tried to enable.

BAT isn't a big force on the internet today, but Brave has grown to 2 million monthly users, and BAT is key to Brave's attempt to shift to ads that can be targeted to your own interests while also protecting your privacy. The free Brave browser is available for personal computers and smartphones, but for now only the PC version can handle the BAT payment system.

Token giveaway starts by June

Giving away BAT to Brave users automatically will likely taper down as Brave's advertising system arrives, Eich said. Because some of that ad revenue will go to Brave users, you should still have a supply of BAT if you choose to enable the ad system.

The startup hopes to open the BAT spigot in the second quarter, he added. There's more programming work required, though, including some kind of a gauge in the browser "so you can always see what your BAT level is," he said.

Brave essentially conjured its supply of BAT out of thin air in 2017 with an initial coin offering (ICO). Enough people were convinced of BAT's value that they funded Brave by buying $36 million worth of BAT in about 30 seconds. About 300 million of the tokens are reserved for a "user growth pool" to attract people to Brave and its BAT-based payment system for online ads. That's the source of the supply Brave plans to release to Brave users.

Today, more than 12,000 publishers have verified themselves for BAT payments, the company said. That includes more than 3,300 websites, 8,800 YouTube creators and nearly 350 people streaming video games on Amazon's Twitch site.

Notable verified media sites include The Washington Post, the Guardian, and Dow Jones Media Group, a Dow Jones subsidiary that operates Barron's and MarketWatch.

Through a deal announced Wednesday, Dow Jones Media Group offered some free two-year subscriptions to new Brave users and said it plans to experiment with Brave-supplied ads. Another part of the plan will let people use BAT to pay for webinar information sessions from the group, Eich said.

Advertisements through Brave

Brave plans two ways of showing ads. In both cases, the browser itself will use machine learning technology to target ads to Brave users without sharing personal information with advertisers, publishers or Brave itself, Eich said.

The first ad technology, scheduled to arrive in the second quarter, will show ads in private tabs if you've enabled the feature and will give you 70 percent of the ad revenue. The browser will notify you of the ads through notifications, either in the browser or the operating system, Eich said.

The second will show ads on publisher's sites in partnership with the publishers themselves. There, the publisher collects 70 percent of the ad revenue, but you get 15 percent.

Brave, too, takes a portion of the ad revenue in both cases. "We take no more than the user and always give the user a cut," Eich said.

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