Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has been back in the headlines recently, with a new browser project called Brave. The Brave browser blocks ads by default and then replaces them with what it calls "clean ads." The goal of the project seems to be to provide a viable financial alternative for publishers that doesn't flood users with obnoxious advertising and privacy violating trackers.
Here are some details about the Brave browser from the Brave site:
Everyone’s talking about ad blocking. Blockers can make the user experience of the Web much better. But as Marco Arment noted, they don’t feel good to many folks. They feel like free-riding, or even starting a war. You may never click on an ad, but even forming an impression from a viewable ad has some small value. With enough people blocking ads, the Web’s main funding model is in jeopardy.
At Brave, we’re building a solution designed to avert war and give users the fair deal they deserve for coming to the Web to browse and contribute. We are building a new browser and a connected private cloud service with anonymous ads. Today we’re releasing the 0.7 developer version for early adopters and testers, along with open source and our roadmap.
Brave browsers block everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising “dirty pipe”, impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals. By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot (so users don't have to suffer, even a few canaries per screen size-profile, with ad delays and battery draining). We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie.
The browser sees everything you do, including actions to stop that annoying phenomenon of retargeting where an ad chases you around the Web, often for something you just bought or decided not to buy. We keep user data out of our cloud Brave Vault by default. It’s better for you and us that we don’t store any of your data without your permission.
I signed up for the Brave beta test a while back, and this morning I got a link to download the first beta version of the Brave browser. So I downloaded it and installed it on my 5K iMac to check it out and see what it had to offer. The install took just a few seconds and I had no trouble opening the Brave browser in OS X El Capitan.
Brave removes ads from sites and replaces them with its own
I went to Breitbart, which is one of my favorite news sites. And one of the first things I noticed was that there weren't any Breitbart ads loaded on the page. Instead I saw placeholders for Brave ads at the very top of the page and on the Breitbart page. The Breitbart site did indeed look better without its usual array of ads.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on what a Brave ad might look like, since the browser currently is just showing placeholder ads. But I'm quite curious to know what Brave ads will look like. Will they include Flash? Animation? Or will they be quieter ads more along the lines of a Google Adsense text ad? There's just no way to know right now.
If Brave ends up showing animated ads and that sort of thing, I doubt it will catch on among many users. Very few people seem to like flashing, moving ads when they visit a web page. So even if Brave blocks trackers, it had better be very careful indeed about the kinds of ads it shows to its users, or it might be written off as pointless by many people.
Will publishers sue Brave for removing their ads?
Another issue that sprang to my mind was how publishers would feel about the Brave browser inserting ads into their site, while simultaneously blocking the site's own ads. I can't help but wonder if there are legal issues that might come up if the Brave browser starts to become popular enough among users. Will some sites sue to stop Brave from blocking their ads while inserting its own, despite the fact that site owners can get paid from Brave's ads?
It's really too early to know the answer to that question. But the Brave browser certainly does raise some interesting questions. And I wonder if it becomes successful enough if other browsers like Firefox and even Chrome might not incorporate a similar model? If that happens then my guess is that there will certainly be some lawsuits happening at some point.
Brave users will get 15 percent of the advertising money
One of the more interesting wrinkles to how Brave handles advertising is that users are slated to get 15 percent of the ad revenue, while Brave itself takes 15 percent, publishers get 55 percent and advertisers get 15 percent. That's an entirely new way of doing things, and it could certainly generate some interest among users if they get a cut of the advertising money.
Brave is definitely a unique experiment, and it's going to be fun to see what happens with it. I'll be keeping an eye on it. The beta I downloaded was not feature complete, and that's understandable given how early it is in the development process. But Brave seems to be off to a reasonably good start, stay tuned for more about it once it's further along.
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