Brendan Eich, the man behind Javascript and Mozilla, has unveiled his vision for a revolutionary new approach to internet advertising. It’s dependent on two key elements; a new web browser called Brave, and a form of cryptocurrency called the Basic Attention Token (BAT).

But just what is wrong with the current model? Well plenty, according to Eich. For starters, websites are overrun with advertisement middlemen. There is shady cross party data sharing, cross-platform tracking and mal advertising. The mobile platform has additional problems. The slow loading of Ad intensive webpages are costing the US customer an average of $23 extra per month in data charges. The slow loading, graphically intensive sites, are taking their toll on mobile battery life too. An average of 21% less battery life is accorded to this type of advertising. It seems everyone loses except the middlemen, fraudsters and bots. The user is subjected to unwanted, obtrusive Ads. Privacy is compromised. The rise of Ad Blockers has hit the genuine advertiser as well as the third party rogue. The publisher has been demonetised severely in recent times(approximately 66% decline), as Ad revenue has not been there.

The solution for the team at Brave software, involves two basic components. Firstly, a new open source browser. Working across all platforms the Brave browser claims to be superfast. Crucially, it has privacy protection at it’s core, blocking third party Ads and trackers. The browser would be able to monitor what adverts the user viewed most often, and for how long. But this information would never leave that particular device due to a built-in anonymity shield.

The second component is the Basic Attention Token (BAT). The BAT is an ethereum based cryptocurrency, an exchange payment between users, advertisers and publishers. The BAT’s value is based around the idea that user’s attention is a valuable commodity. As such, the more time the user spends watching certain adverts, the more BATs they accrue. This user attention is defined as ‘focused mental engagement’. The browser logs information as to where the user spends most of his/her time. The publisher is rewarded accordingly(BAT). The user is rewarded for their focused time(BAT) and protected from unwanted Ads and malware, and the advertiser benefits from more accurate data on user spending. The user can spend the tokens on premium content or services within the Brave platform.

The Basic Attention Token system is in its infancy. The basic tenets appear laudable. The good guys get their due, while the fraudsters and spammers are shut out. It remains to be seen how this idea can be sold to the masses. Brave browser has less than 1% market share at present. How are they going to raise their profile? There are plenty of ‘fast’ browsers out there. As to privacy issues, many users have Ad Blockers and probably don’t care what adverts are blocked – as long as they are! The tokens themselves are of limited use to the user as they can only be used within the Brave platform. Maybe too narrow a field for most people. One thing's for sure, whichever way it goes, it’s sure to be interesting.

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