Brave, and the Next Phase of the Ad Blocking Saga

Publishers and users are at an en passe. Users hate ads, so they block them. They have their reasons, and those reasons are fairly valid. Publishers need ads, else the “free” web as we know it will disappear. Also valid. And now—with the launch of the public beta of the ad-blocking browser Brave—a pay-as-you-go web experience may be a viable outcome.

Brave, a browser co-founded by former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, blocks all ads and tracking by default. That fact alone was enough to cause a firestorm when the browser was announced earlier this year, but it’s not necessarily the most interesting aspect of Brave.

While users can opt to receive optimized ads through Brave, they can also automatically and anonymously donate to their favorite sites using bitcoin. The system also pays users 15% of the ad revenue Brave gets from publishers, which feeds into their account wallet.

Given that the browser just entered public beta, launch is likely quite a ways off. Even post launch, it’s unclear whether Brave will be able to grab market share from established browsers like Chrome and Safari.

All of that said though, Brave presents a paradigm shift in internet economy the likes of which we haven’t seen since the advent of broadband connections. With the vast majority of ads being blocked, and users having the option to pay websites directly, the value of web ads could tank. On the other hand, Brave’s vision of a world where people pay for both internet service and to tip sites seems a bit altruistic. It’s hard to imagine the average internet user opting to pay for much of anything, after all.

It’ll be interesting to see which way Brave pulls the discussion as it progresses through beta, and up to release.

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