Brendan Eich, the controversial former CEO of Mozilla, recently launched Brave, a privacy-focused browser that blocks ads and trackers. While that concept isn't new, Brave has a twist: You'll have to pay to completely block ads, and if you allow replacement ads (reportedly free of bloat, tracking and malware) you'll actually get paid yourself. Now, the company has revealed the Brave Ledger, a Bitcoin-based payment system for users and publishers. The specifications aren't final, but Brave is now fielding comments and discussion from advertisers and developers.
Here's how it works: Previously, the company said it would allow users to either pay to block ads, or get paid to allow ad replacements from Brave's own network. Those ads, chosen by an ad-matching partner, are supposedly faster, safer and load after the publisher's content, not before it like regular third-party ads. For ad-free mode, you'll pay a monthly fee that will be distributed to publishers based on total traffic to each site. Brave's ad network would take a five percent cut of the total amount collected.
How many publishers will go along with this, since many, like Engadget parent AOL, have their own ad networks?
When users go for replacement ads, Brave will take a 15 percent cut, its ad-matching partner would take 15 percent and publishers would get the biggest chunk, 55 percent. The latter pot would be divvied up based on the same traffic measurements as the ad-free method. Users get 15 percent, but there are some caveats. First of all, you need to have a Brave Bitcoin wallet, and the default option will be to donate money to your preferred publisher. If you want to spend the money yourself, you'll need to verify your identity with a phone number and email address. Publishers will also need to be verified to a higher standard.
All of this creates as many questions as it answers. How much will users get paid (and have to pay) to accept or decline ads, for instance? Since the ad-free method amounts to a subscription, how many users will pay to skip ads? (Not many, if torrent software providers like uTorrent are any indication.) Which publishers will go along with this, since many, like Engadget parent AOL, have their own ad networks? These are tricky questions, and if the company doesn't have the right answers, its Brave browser model will be dead on arrival.
Update: Since this article was published, Brave has updated the source blog post to say that paying for ad-blocking is "optional." In a previous version, it said "for ad-free mode, you pay a monthly fee in Bitcoin (BTC)." The article now states: "For sites in ad-free mode, you can optionally pay the site by drawing from your user wallet, funded by your revenue share from ad-replacement mode sites (see below) plus your own funds if you care to add any." A company spokesperson also confirmed that users do not have to pay to block ads.
There's no word on whether users would opt in or out to pay, and how a free mode would affect publisher revenues. Engadget has reached out for more information, and Brave's comments, in part, are below.
There is no subscription model. With Brave, a user can go ad-free if he wishes -- without paying. Of course we encourage users to support publishers and web sites, but we don't require users to pay to go ad-free.