Mozilla’s Co-Founder on His ‘Brave’ New Bitcoin-Powered Browser

Mozilla’s Co-Founder on His ‘Brave’ New Bitcoin-Powered Browser

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Brendan Eich, creator of the JavaScript programming language and Mozilla’s former Chief Architect is at it again. This time, Eich is building a new browser called Brave “that puts users first in ownership and control of their browsing data by blocking trackers by default, with no exceptions.” It also integrates “HTTPS everywhere” into every browser. Bitcoin.com spoke with Eich to get more insight into Brave and how it not only aims to protect users’ privacy but reward publishers and content creators using Bitcoin.

Also read: Japan’s Largest Bank is Building Its Own Digital Coin


“Bitcoin is the only game in town.”

– Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich

Bitcoin.com (BC): How can Brave “avert war” and solve the problem of online content monetization and ad-blocking?

Brendan Eich (BE): Brave is innovating and will be giving a fair deal to publishers and users, which requires protecting users from trackers. The problem with trackers is while they aggregate “audience” for small and medium publishers, who individually could not get as good a set of ads as they can by using third party tracking middle-players in the ad-tech ecosystem, the gain is smaller than promised, and the cost is too high.

We aim to pay publishers much better than the low revenue shares they get today from programmatic ads.

Brave cuts out the middle-players who subsist on tracking, replacing them with in-browser ad preference inference where the data stays on your device; and anonymous protocols for ad impression and conversion confirmation. We aim to pay publishers much better than the low revenue shares they get today from programmatic ads. We give a revenue share to the user, at the same 15% rate as we take, so users can auto-micropay sites they love for ad-free browsing on those sites.

Thus we give users a much better deal, publishers a strictly better deal, and advertisers get more precise and better converting ads due to our private, browser-local ad placement system.

BC: What new technologies have enabled such a solution that didn’t exist when you were working at Mozilla?

BE: We use Electron/chromium, which came from Github Atom and thus started around when I left Mozilla. We use Bitcoin under the hood, for permissionless payments, with BitGo as our wallet and identity partner. They started around the same time I left Mozilla. Finally, we are working with top computer science researchers on anonymization technology that is crucial to our tracker-less ad tech. More on this soon. 

BC: How does Bitcoin facilitate this solution? Why not fiat currency/USD?

BE: We must climb only one scaling wall: gaining browser users based on the much faster and cleaner experience Brave delivers by blocking all trackers and ads. Any publisher buy-in requirement would create a second scaling wall, and at independent odds of success a high risk we would not get both enough users and enough publishers on board to succeed.

This requires an accounting system we are building that also uses anonymizing protocols implemented in open source, for an auditable payments architecture […] Bitcoin is the only way to send money to an address at no intrinsic cost.

So we worry only about the users, and use Bitcoin to drop money on publishers favored by our users as they browse, both from the default Brave Ad replacement system and its anonymous confirmation signals required to get paid by the “buy side” (brands and agencies); and for any micropayments from our users to their top 20 (or more) sites.

This requires an accounting system we are building that also uses anonymizing protocols implemented in open source, for an auditable payments architecture for our partners. As we grow they can verify and trust it. Bitcoin is the only way to send money to an address at no intrinsic cost.

We will support fiat in addition to Bitcoin as soon as we can, with all that entails, but for paying revenue shares to both our users (as discussed earlier) and all the publishers visited by the users, only Bitcoin will work.

BC: Will users have to create their own digital wallets for this to work? Will Brave support any wallet?Brave-FTimg1

BE: We create wallets, since we require multi-sig BitGo wallets and identity certification to hand off one of three private keys, so users and publishers can debit funds. Thus if early adopters bring their own Bitcoin (and have a wallet elsewhere already), they can self-fund their Brave user wallet to start auto-micropaying publishers soon (during our 0.8 milestone, see: https://brave.com/dev_timeline.html).

We certify users and publishers to control for clickfraud and other such threats, but we do not limit our publisher program to the Alexa 1000 — we want to pay small and medium publishers, and even users who host content on systems such as YouTube. Again Bitcoin under the hood makes this possible, with help from our identity certification partner BitGo.

BC: Can you take us though the steps of how these bitcoins will be transferred from advertiser to the publisher and users? Will advertisers have to initially acquire these coins on an exchange?

BE: No, that would make another independent (odds ratios multiply) scaling wall we don’t want to climb. Instead we’re talking to top agencies about trial ad campaigns, where after our anonymous confirmation system proves impressions at the agreed-upon CPM rate, we will get paid in fiat (for these trials, US$). In the long term, we’ll exchange to Bitcoin and share with our users and publishers based on confirmed impressions.

In the short term, we are happy to be working with Sonobi, a Supply Side Platform (SSP) who shares our privacy-first goals and anonymized methods. Sonobi takes the same revenue share our users and we take, 15%. We expect early trials to pay Sonobi, who will then pay Brave, and then we’ll exchange to Bitcoin, pay our users their share, and send the largest share to publishers on whose sites our Brave ad replacements performed.

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Brave’s privacy settings

BC: Will Bitcoin only be used as a currency on Brave? Have you also considered using it for record-keeping, smart contracts, proof of ownership etc.?

BE: We have, but it does not appear to be either desirable or practical to use the Blockchain, a low-bandwidth, increasingly high-cost accounting system that is *public*, for micropayments and ad impressions. Instead we use Bitcoin for its frictionless or permissionless properties.

[Publishers and agencies] are worried about ad-blockers, which are rising to 40% of all Internet users by some accounts. Both are willing to experiment for a better future along the lines we’re building at Brave.

We are open to using the Blockchain for other systems in the future. I’m a fan of the Blockstack approach. But we can’t wait for innovations not yet in hand, such as the Lightning Network, nor should our users have to wait.

BC: What type of response have you received so far from advertising agencies and publishers? What are they most concerned/excited about?

BE: I’ve been speaking to top publishers and agencies. Both groups are worried about ad-blockers, which are rising to 40% of all Internet users by some accounts. Both are willing to experiment for a better future along the lines we’re building at Brave.

BC: Have you considered using any other cryptocurrencies or payment methods?

BE: I had a nice visit with Ethereum folks in London last summer, and we watch that project with interest. But for a practical cryptocurrency that has the properties we require, and has the most decentralization, Bitcoin is the only game in town.

brendan_couch

BC: How will the “data vault” work? Is users’ private information encrypted?

BE: Yes, and users opt into this (fairly conventional) browser sync feature, which comes a bit farther out on our developer roadmap. We start with zero data out of the browser: ads are placed based on device-and-browser-local information and algorithms, and confirmation and accounting signals are anonymized.

BC: When can we expect to see Brave’s public release? 

BE: We are already seeing happy users of our 0.7 Developer Channel release, so we’re working hard to grow the user base and keep it growing through 0.8, 0.9 and on to 1.0 later this year. We expect to have apps in the mobile app stores sooner than our 1.0 milestone, in order to reach all the users who want to adopt Brave.

What do you think about Brave? Can Bitcoin help solve the ad-block problem? Share and comment below!


Images courtesy of web.archive.org, Brave.com, digitaltrends.com, crazy-frankenstein.com

  • Scott

    Very interesting. I’m looking forward to this new browser. I also watch the Ethereum project rather closely.

  • James

    I can’t WAIT for the Brave browser to come out. Our time is being wasted by incessant, intrusive advertising. Time is the ultimate limited resource. We’ve only got so much of it due to our limited lifespans, so the huge waste of time enabled by current browsers is very costly.