Mozilla co-founder's ad-blocking Brave browser will pay you bitcoin to see safe ads

A new browser from the co-founder of Mozilla gets serious about replacing the web’s worst ads.

Brave, a new privacy- and speed-focused web browser helmed by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, has a plan to get you to unblock ads.

First announced in January, Brave is a web browser for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android that has ad blocking built in. But instead of eliminating ads entirely, Brave wants to replace them with speedier, non-intrusive ads from its own network. Users who agree to see these ads will then get paid in bitcoin.

Under this plan, advertisers pay for a certain number of impressions, and Brave aggregates those payments into one sum. Websites that participate in the scheme get 55 percent of the money, weighted by how many impressions are served on their sites. Brave then divvies up the remaining bitcoin between itself, its ad-matching partner, and the users, each getting a 15 percent share.

For both users and publishers, Brave deposits the money into individual bitcoin wallets, and both parties must verify their identity to claim the funds. This requires an email and phone number for users, and more stringent identification steps for publishers. Users who don’t verify will automatically donate their share of the funds back to the sites they visit most.

Why is this better than the standard ad-supported website model? Brave argues that its ads are faster and safer than most ad networks. And although Brave will map users’ browsing histories to general “interest” categories for displaying relevant ads, it vows not to track users through unique or persistent identifiers, as ad networks typically do.

Alternatively, users will have an option to block all ads and pay a monthly subscription to Brave, which gets distributed to publishers on a weighted basis (minus a cut for Brave, of around 5 percent). The company is also working on granular options, such as the ability to pay a handful of favorite sites with wallet funds to block their ads. Users can also choose to go ad-free without paying anything, though Brave seems to think this won’t be the norm.

Brave has talked about these plans before, but now the company has put out a specification for how everything should work and is seeking feedback from developers. Brave hopes to have the system set up in time for its 1.0 Development release next month.

Why this matters: As ad blocking becomes more common on the web, Brave is seeking a middle ground between compensating publishers for their work and protecting users from cumbersome, invasive, and sometimes dangerous ads. Whether advertisers and publishers get on board remains to be seen, but with the ad industry admitting that it has alienated users over the years, perhaps they’ll be receptive to novel solutions like the one Brave is offering.

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Jared Newman

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