That’s the reason Facebook and Google are two of the biggest, wealthiest, and most powerful corporations on the planet. But you spend only a small portion of the total value of your attention to get those services – social connection and search – and the world’s largest advertising duopoly keeps the rest for itself.
Brave has a different plan.
Brave is a browser that is built to be privacy-safe. It’s also built to return 70% of the value of your attention back to you.
While the Brave browser blocks ads by default, you can opt in to seeing ads in select categories. What that means, according to Brave, is that people are seeing ads because they want to, not because they are forced to. And the result is a massive 7X increase in click-through rates.
Standard ads have about a 2% CTR.
Brave ads? 14%, according to recent report from the company. And people are making money.
“We're still in the early phases, but users have been reporting that they're earning the BAT equivalent of between $5-10 a month,” Brave CEO Brendan Eich co-founder and CEO of Brave told me recently. “This depends on how many ads they choose to see per hour (customizable from one to five).”
(“BAT” is Basic Attention Token, is an Ethereum-based utility token for Brave’s blockchain-based ad platform.)
There’s a lot of room to grow.
For now, Brave has just 2.8 million daily active users. But it’s growing fast, and the company now has almost 300,000 verified publishers and eight million monthly active users. There have been 385 ad campaigns so far generating 97 million ad views.
I asked about scaling – and maintaining levels of engagement as Brave grows.
“We expect high levels of engagement because Brave Ads are opt-in and also relevant to the user’s browsing experience,” Eich says. “We are optimistic based on early returns, responses from our user base, and ongoing participation with brands and agencies in the industry. Aside from the ads in Brave, we will be introducing a BAT SDK for mobile apps to extend and scale the BAT and privacy-preserving ads beyond the Brave browser.”
That answers an important question: Brave is moving into mobile, where most of us spend most of our digital time.
There’s also a win for publishers.
If users prefer, the 70% share of ad revenue that they collect can go straight to publishers. $5-10 a month is probably not a big deal to many of us, but over millions of users, it ads up to a lot for online publishers. You can tip on Twitter to your favorite creators.
Add it all up, and it’s a different vision of the content contract.
We’ve had an implicit content contract between publishers/creators and users on the web: they make stuff, we consume it, and ads pay for it. That contract has broken down as content aggregators like Google and Facebook have taken the lion’s share of revenue, starving creators. It’s proven manipulable by outside forces to destabilize us politically.
With the breakdown in the contract, we’ve seen more and more media companies and creators turn to paywalls to fund their operations ... each of which closes off the web just a little bit more.
If Brave can get sufficient scale – and if other companies can build similar platforms – we stand a chance of making that original content contract work again.