A number of web browser developers have either already introduced, or are in the process of developing, built-in crypto wallets. Such wallets allow users to buy, sell, and pay with digital currencies while they browse. The people behind the Brave browser have taken things to the next level. The latest edition of their groundbreaking browser doesn't just allow you to deal in crypto while you're browsing, it actually makes cryptocurrency part of the browsing experience.
Brave now allows its users to earn tokens while they browse. They can use those tokens to contribute to various websites as they see fit. At some point in the future, they will also be able to cash out their tokens as fiat. All of this crypto functionality is built around Brave's own Basic Attention Token (BAT).
Always a bit different
Brave browser has been a little bit different since its inception. In its earliest stages, Brave was intended to be a browser that truly delivered on promises of privacy and security. Where other browser developers made claims of privacy, Brave developers actually delivered on them with a browser that did not allow tracking, did not report user statistics, and made for easy ad blocking.
As such, Brave has long been touted as the most private and secure browser on the web. Assuming that this is true, it presents a problem for developers. They need money to continue development, yet they cannot generate revenue the way it is normally done. So they came up with a way to allow users to contribute to participating companies and, in turn, allow those companies to display their ads.
Brave developers went one step further in 2017 by launching their own cryptocurrency. In fact, the BAT ICO generated USD $35 million within a minute of launching its token. The price of BAT has fallen significantly since then, like most other cryptocurrencies, but it remains a healthy source of revenue for the company.
The latest version of their browser pushes the envelope even further by combining the BAT token with the ability of users to reward website owners they feel strongly about contributing to. This new paradigm is based on a groundbreaking strategy for presenting targeted ads.
Earn coins while browsing
A hallmark of any secure web browser is to block ads. Why? Because ad servers are known to track user activity. That is considered a violation of privacy among secure browser enthusiasts. As such, users have always had the ability to block 100% of the served ads when using Brave. They have also had the ability to allow certain kinds of ads from trusted advertisers.
Under the new model, in-line ads will not appear at all when browsing in Brave. Instead, users can opt to display small, pop-up notifications from advertisers as they come in. They can then choose to click on the notifications to open up a new window displaying ad content.
Brave developers have chosen to use their digital token as a way to incentivize users to enable this option. Just by allowing the notifications to appear, users earn BAT. They can earn even more coins by clicking on the notifications and viewing the resulting ads.
Earned coins are stored in a wallet built into the browser itself. It doesn't appear as though Brave servers will also store wallet data, so it is up to users to make routine backups of their software so as to not lose their coins.
As for spending the coins, options are limited right now. But developers promise that there will be more options in the future. We suspect they will include shopping with participating online retailers. However, we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.
How payments are determined
Brave determines how many coins are earned based on a user's browsing habits and the advertisements he or she chooses to view. The Brave organization will be selling advertisements on the model very similar to Google's pay per click. A certain percentage of their ad revenue - Brave says it may be as much as 70% - is returned to users as an incentive to get them to allow notifications in the browser.
Let us just say a company pays an ad fee equal to $1.00 for each notification. If you allow that notification to pop up in your browser, you would get the equivalent of $0.70 in BAT. Brave would keep the remaining $0.30.
Brave developers aim to attract advertisers by presenting them with technology that allows for ads targeted at specific types of users. Built into the browser is a locally hosted system (it is hosted on the user's device rather than Brave servers) that will analyze browsing habits and serve up appropriately targeted ads. The system will guarantee that advertisers are targeting their primary demographics.
Contributing to website owners
The new version of Brave will have contributions to website owners enabled by default. Those owners are referred to by Brave as publishers. These publishers partially fund their efforts by receiving donations directly from Brave users or grants from the company behind Brave. This is where the new BAT feature comes into play.
For now, there is no way to spend or cash out BAT. It can only be used to reward publishers for their content. As such, developers have enabled the contribution option by default. Users not wishing to contribute to publishers have to go into the browser settings to turn it off.
Like older versions of the browser, publisher contributions will be determined by the frequency a participating site is viewed by the same user. If you visit one particular site every single day, your contribution to that publisher will be greater than that made to a publisher whose site you visit only once a week.
This system rewards publishers for generating content users actually want to see. It is in their best interests to create quality content if they want to earn tokens. As for what they can do with those tokens, it's anyone's guess. Brave developers haven't gone out of their way to explain how things work on that end.
Future implications for users
Brave developers say they are working on an option that will eventually allow users to convert their BAT tokens to fiat. They should be able to purchase products from participating publishers in the near future as well. What are they waiting for? Brave developers are still working on their 'know your customer (KYC)' solution now required by law in many countries. As soon as that solution is complete, they will start implementing shopping and conversion features.
The implications here are intriguing. Could it be that you might one day be able to use the Brave browser and its associated tokens to gamble online? Will Brave be compatible with casinos that operate the video slots?
Brave browser and slots
It is a curious scenario to think through given how restrictive Brave is in the way users browse the web. Older versions of the browser would not let you play online video slots out-of-the-box. The browser's built-in security prevented such activity based on a perceived level of elevated risk. Users had to go into the settings and dial things back in order to have access to their favorite slots.
Given that the main thrust of Brave is still security and privacy, we have to assume the same situation is true with the new version. In order to play slots at your favorite online casino, you will probably have to go into the Brave settings and change a few things.
As for the BAT token, it's probably not reasonable to assume many online casinos would accept it as a form of deposit. BAT just doesn't enjoy the volume and circulation of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin. But there is that possibility of converting BAT to fiat.
Making the conversion to fiat instantly opens the door to buying whatever coins your favorite casino does accept. This is not the ideal solution in that you are going to incur fees for each buy/sell transaction, but it's still a better option than making a deposit through your bank account or with a credit card.
Integrating crypto with browsing
Stepping back and looking at what Brave has done from a broad perspective shows a clear picture of a company that is working hard to integrate crypto with normal web browsing. The new Brave browser treats cryptocurrency as an integral part of the browsing process rather than a standalone entity that is only called upon when someone wants to buy something.
Any success for their targeted advertising platform, known as Brave Ads, could lead to other browser developers attempting a similar arrangement. Get enough web browsers to incorporate the same ad platform and they could put a serious dent in Google domination of the online ad space. But that is a long way off, if it ever happens.
For now, Brave users have the luxury of earning cryptocurrency during their normal browser activity. That is remarkable by itself. And due to the way that the system is set up, both advertisers and content publishers benefit without having to be intrusive. There is nothing wrong with that.