Online advertising is a huge market, with spending on track to exceed $230 billion this year, but some key constituents aren’t happy.

More and more users are irritated by ads and trackers on the sites they peruse on their devices and so are activating ad-blocking software. Meanwhile, more news websites are using paywalls and limiting free content as their share of ad revenue dwindles.

At the same time, advertising middlemen are sweeping up most of the online profits.

Brave Software wants to upset this paradigm with two key elements: a fast browser that gives web surfers privacy and complete control over whether they view ads; and a utility token called Basic Attention Token, or BAT. The system cuts advertising middlemen out of the equation, compensates users when they do choose to view ads and provides multiple ways for web publishers to be remunerated.

“Users are going to have to opt in to seeing private ads,” Colle says. “There has to be user consent.”

“The aim is to reconnect advertisers with users and publishers (while preserving users’ privacy), and to remove the middlemen that adversely affect not only publisher revenue and user privacy, but also advertiser efficiency,” Catherine Corre, Brave’s head of communications, tells ThirtyK.

Here’s how it works.

First, there’s Brave’s browser, which is free. The company says it loads web pages twice as fast on desktops as competitors such as Chrome or Safari and up to eight times faster on mobile phones, all because it keeps out ads and trackers. Without those ads and trackers loading, smartphone users could save as much as $23 a month on data charges, according to Brave.

The company’s servers don’t store users’ browsing data either, so it can’t be sold to third parties.

Management has some serious experience with web browsers. Co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich was the co-founder of Mozilla, which created the Firefox browser. He also invented JavaScript. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Brian Bondy previously worked on Firefox.

Brave users can choose not to view any ads, but soon they’ll be able to receive BAT tokens for agreeing to peruse customized batches of ads the company sells directly to advertisers, bypassing middlemen. Users can then donate those tokens to websites they like or choose to have Brave automatically distribute them to sites based on the user’s viewing history. The platform keeps track of users viewings via the blockchain ledger, though the metrics are anonymous and never shared with third party advertisers or ad trackers.

“Users are going to have to opt in to seeing private ads,” Colle says. “There has to be user consent.”

So far, in two years of operation, Brave has signed up more than 14,000 publisher-partners. Among them is this site, thirtyk.com, which joined in April.

Publishers will receive BAT tokens donated by users, but they’ll also receive a portion of Brave’s ad revenue (70 percent set aside for Brave’s partner-publishers) in the form of tokens, which can be redeemed for cash or services.

Brave, which launched in 2016, already has a monthly-user base of about 2.2 million, Colle says.

As of now, the partners are from three sources, she adds. The most high-profile of them are mainstream publishers, including the Washington Post, Boston Globe, The Guardian and Vice.

There are also popular YouTube channels, including Philip DeFranco, Casey Neistat and PewDiePie. Recently, streamers on the streaming service Twitch.tv have been enabled to receive payment via Brave Payment.

While waiting for the system to become fully operational, Brave has allocated about $3 million worth of promotional tokens for both digital publishers and users.

Ed Newton
Ed Newton contributes to a range of business and general publications. He was an award-winning staff reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times for nearly a decade and later wrote for Reuters and the New York Post.