CeBIT Conferences 2017  

9
Feb

Could Brave flip modern advertising on its head?

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Online advertising stands to be reinvented if web pioneer, Brendan Eich’s latest start-up takes off. The Silicon Valley based entrepreneur is venturing down a path not many tech companies are willing to walk. He and his 10 person team are developing a new web browser, Brave.

Brave essentially strips away non-Brave sourced advertisements. It doesn’t scrape your private data and sell it to advertisers for a premium, and as a result, the browser runs between two to four times faster than any browser on the market today. As of February 2016, the browser is at version .7 and is in beta testing.

We’ve taken a closer look at Brave and discuss how it could impact current advertising models and whether it’s going to take off.

What is Brave?

Brave was conceptualised by Eich, the co-founder of Mozilla and the creator of Javascript.

It’s a desktop and mobile browser that replaces ads with other ads. Confused? In easier to understand terms advertisers would pay the browser, instead of the platform paying publishers or networks (Google AdSense, Facebook etc).

The browser does this to respect users’ privacy and to speed up web page loading times. No cookies. tracking your every move online.

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Instead of using cookies to track your every move on the web, the browser looks at a user’s previous browsing history and activity, then encrypts it and makes an assumption about what the user likes. It will then feed the user (hopefully) a relevant ad based on the user’s previous content preferences. But this is all within the user's control, as Eich explains in his latest blog. He says there are two big advantages to this approach.

  1. The in-browser targeting engine has substantially more information about the user's activity available to it than traditional tracking methods, while simultaneously providing greater privacy and control for the user.
  2. Brave can provide access to all of the top publishers through a single channel with guaranteed “share of voice”. This combination of better targeting and first-look access to all of the premium placements our users browse is something that no one else can provide.

The idea is bigger than an ad blocker, which let’s the user completely remove all ads. Ad blockers are detrimental to content creators and some businesses, as advertising is their main source of revenue.

Brave’s revenue model

Brave wants to pay publishers a generous 55% of the revenue generated by an ad. According to Eich, this is more than any publisher and content creator gets now. He told Wired the company would pay its own network partners 15% and keep 15% for itself.

Websites will get a site wallet and each month, Brave will deposit a large share of the revenue from all ads that performed on the website’s pages, plus all the micropayments directed by users who supported the website.

Another interesting feature is the Brave Wallet which will be live in the next few months. The remaining 15% of the revenue goes back to the user, into their wallet, and as Eich explains, the user can then give that money to a site (or sites) of their choice and browse that website ad free. This is all back in the user’s control.

Eich has also made it abundantly clear that Brave will not accept payment from advertisers to get their ads approved or whitelisted.

Who will this impact and why

Flashing banners and pop up ads are plain annoying — they’re intrusive, often irrelevant and chew up bandwidth. Some even argue ad tech is killing the online experience. These kinds of ads are not particularly effective and they’re usually clicked by mistake!

With this in mind it’s easy to see why Eich believes there’s a market for his product. Ad blockers have already made it easy enough to block basically every ad on the internet. But Brave’s model deals with blocking in a different way. Brave essentially cuts out all ads, and replaces them with their own. No other browser does this. Currently ad networks rely on websites and apps to display the ad, the browser itself doesn't generate it.

Brave will source ads from ad agencies and their direct partners. Again, as Brave doesn’t use cookies to track your activities on the web, and relies on a user’s browsing history to decide what they like, the ads will be targeted to a user differently than what we see today.

There’s still a long way to go

The biggest challenge, as is the case for most businesses, is attracting and keeping a loyal fan base. Brave needs to hold the attention of internet users who already have browsers pre-installed on their computers. And the competition is fierce. Eich is going up against his past company, Mozilla who own popular browser Firefox, and then there’s Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s soon to be phased out Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari, which each hold significant market share.

Also, Brave needs to resonate with a target market of people who are concerned with their internet privacy. Are users here in 2016 worried about internet privacy? The stats would say yes. About 26% of US adults who own a desktop or laptop already use AdBlocker or AdBlocker Plus and Governments are starting to crack down on privacy worldwide. But is it enough to sustain Brave?

Final thoughts

In November 2015 Brave raised $2.5 million in funding. The investment enabled Eich to hire well-known and savvy technical staff heads Yan Zhu and Marshall Rose. Both have impressive histories both in academia and the online development space. It will be interesting to watch closely as Brave takes shape and becomes available to the public.

Advertising is here to stay and Eich’s model for Brave is a new-school way of thinking. He told Cnet his company would have to prove itself to get it to work. But as time goes by and consumers clue on to how their private data is being used for profit, Brave could flip the traditional advertising model on its head.

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