The Web has come a long way since the early days of AOL and AltaVista. But some of those advances have come at a heavy cost. A small number of large corporations now dominate much of the Internet’s most important tools, from email and cloud services to social media and, of course, the browsers themselves. The shift from brands like Lycos and Ask Jeeves to giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook has happened in part because today’s companies offer tools that work at a price that feels free. Instead of charging subscription rates, they take our data, building detailed pictures of our online lives, our interests and our habits which they then use to target ads.
And we don’t notice that our privacy has been invaded, so we don’t complain.
How it works
Brave works by keeping data on local devices. Instead of sending your search and browser history back to Google’s or Microsoft’s servers for its advertisers to mine, Brave lets users keep all their data to themselves. The computer or mobile device then matches that data to Brave’s catalogue of ads. Because everything takes place on a local device, each user’s browser activity remains private.
In effect, Brave has decentralized online ad service so it’s no surprise that as blockchain developed, Eich looked for ways integrate the new technology to create a browser fit for Web3. Users would both retain their privacy and be able to reward directly the creators of the content they enjoyed.
“The disintermediated fan creator economy that’s risen was on my mind,” Eich told the Bad Crypto Podcast. “And to do both of those things, privacy and I would say direct, economic, user-first participation, required thinking about how to marry cryptocurrencies and security, including privacy.”
Eich on The Bad Crypto Podcast
To hear a full explanation of Eich’s background and the privacy solutions offered within the Brave ecosystem, watch his full interview with The Bad Crypto Podcast.
Adding blockchain to Brave
Eich started by adding Bitcoin to Brave. In 2016, the browser included a system that allowed users to bring their own Bitcoin and send it to creators and website owners who’d signed up to the service. The system used multisig wallets and didn’t require any Brave custody in the middle.
It didn’t work. Between the Bitcoin block size issue, the congestion that choked confirmations in 2017, and the fact that people wanted to hold Bitcoin rather than send it to a random publisher, direct crypto payments from users to creators didn’t really take off.
Attempts to integrate blockchain technology into the browser to enhance decentralization in ad service also ran into difficulties. Blockchains might not store data on a central server at the mercy of a large corporation but they are transparent. Activities that use a blockchain can be tracked publicly and in real time.
“And that means that you can fingerprint the user by looking at transactions over time,” warns Eich.
Privacy centric features
Now, Brave browser offers users rewards via their native cryptocurrency, $BAT (Basic Attention Token), earned for users enabling a private advertisement experience. Within the BAT ad ecosystem, users are rewarded for their attention, publishers and creators earn ad revenue for their content and user contributions via tips, and advertisers receive reporting on campaigns without violating user privacy.
Another Brave ecosystem tool is the Brave Wallet. Brave Wallet is native to the browser, meaning no additional extension like MetaMask is required for installation, reducing vulnerabilities from phishing, faked versions of the app, and other theft. The Brave Wallet offers multi-chain integrations, a fiat on-ramp, and more for streamlined web3 browsing with data privacy and security at its core.
By not gathering data into one giant database, Brave guards privacy and provides a secure alternative to browsers offered by giant companies that thrive on user information. Eich and his team at Brave continue to innovate, creating decentralized web3 tools for safe, streamlined browsing experiences on both mobile and desktop.