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Brave browser lets you pay your favorite YouTube stars

The browser blocks ads, but its makers still want money to flow to what we like online.

Brave Software's logo

Brave Software's logo

Brave Software

Brave Software on Thursday released a new version of its browser that lets you donate money directly to YouTube stars.

The free browser blocks ads by default but lets you distribute money anonymously to websites each month, giving more money to the websites you visit more often and letting you "pin" favorites you always want to fund. Now Brave lets you do the same with YouTubers -- at least for those creators who sign up to receive the money.

For now, that money is whatever you transfer from your own bank account to a Brave electronic wallet. Next year, though, Brave plans to start funding the activity with revenue generated by online ads it'll show if you choose to see them, said Brave co-founder and Chief Executive Brendan Eich, who previously led Mozilla's Firefox browser effort.

Initially, Brave will show ads in a separate browser tab, with 70 percent of revenue going to you, if you're using Brave and have opted in. But the company also plans to place ads in partnership with website publishers, in which case 70 percent of the revenue goes to the publisher, 15 percent to you and the rest to Brave and its advertising business partners.

It's all part of Brave's attempt to rewrite the rules of online advertising. Today's online ads are often supplied by a witches' brew of advertising intermediaries that Brave wants to supplant with a system that keeps your online behavior data private. Brave -- the browser, not the company -- will monitor your browsing activity to better target ads toward your interests, but will share only ad-related keywords that aren't linked to your own identity.

Brave's payment system now can direct money to YouTube creators

Brave Software

YouTube has become a profitable for some, but it's not easy even for people who have something interesting to share online. YouTube restricted ads for YouTubers with fewer than 10,000 video views in March in an effort to curtail some problems. Alternatives such as Patreon let you fund creative types, but Brave hopes to make the process automatic once you set up its general payment system.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube rely on others to generate the content that makes their platforms compelling. That's why Brave by default doesn't send money their way and why Brave aimed to pay YouTubers, not YouTube.

"There's been exploitation, and those platform owners are the biggest companies on the planet," Eich said.

Brave has started contacting YouTube stars and hopes they'll sign up and publicize Brave's approach, he said.

The payment mechanism relies on a cryptocurrency -- initially bitcoin when Brave started testing the system 14 months ago, but now the infrastructure of a rival project called Ethereum.

Brave's payment system now can direct money to YouTube creators

Brave Software

Neither you nor YouTubers have to worry about the computer-science particulars, though. Brave has a partnership with a company called Uphold that converts ordinary money into and out of the quasi-currency Brave is trying to establish for the online advertising market, the Basic Attention Token or BAT.

It's tough to challenge the big names in browsers -- Google, Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla. Brave has made some headway, though, Eich said. Brave has more than 1 million downloads so far on Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS and Linux, and Eich said about a million people use the browser each month.

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