Time to Download the Brave Browser

Five years of working with ZEDO and navigating the never-ending crises of digital media have convinced me that more is to come, and now I suspect I know what that is. Ironically, I discovered the future of advertising through my investing in cryptocurrencies.

ZEDO started out as an ad server for publishers, morphed into an exchange, offers out-sourced ad operations, developed a slew of high impact formats for advertisers, and has now become a private platform for fraud-free, brand safe ads. These changes, designed to keep the company on the “high road,” have almost cost us the company many times. It’s not easy to brand a company that must constantly change, and every ad tech company has to do that every day. Our first USP was being a partner to publishers to help them raise revenue, and that’s still our core competency — although developing ad formats with which viewers actually want to engage is rapidly catching up.

In the five years since I started advising on the marketing of ZEDO, Bitcoin (BTC) also hit the mainstream of the tech community. Well, the mainstream of early adopters, anyway. I bought some Bitcoin — not enough to matter, even given the rapid rise of the alternate currency. And last year, I heard about a new cryptocurrency that actually seemed more useful than Bitcoin, which isn’t really a good store of value since it 1)is still pretty volatile and 2)is only useful if the person you’re buying from takes Bitcoin.

The new crytocurrency, Ethereum (ETH), enabled smart contracts. I traded my BTC for ETH, and forgot about them. Then about a month ago, I got re-engaged when I realized that I had a fair amount of money in my ETH wallet, as the ETH had gone up almost 3,000% over the past year. And I started to hear about companies raising money through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), meaning through these cryptocurrencies, by offering “tokens.”

One of these ICOs, in which I was too slow to invest, was the one to fund the Brave Browser. Brave’s mission is to “save the web by increasing browsing speed and safety for users, while growing ad revenue share for content creators.” You can download a dev version the browser already for Mac, Linux, and Windows.

“Basic Attention Token improves the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new unit of exchange between publishers, advertisers and users. It all happens on the Ethereum blockchain. The value of the token is based on user attention, which simply means a person’s focused mental engagement.”

Brave blocks trackers and ads, and is wicked fast. It’s also gorgeous. I’m using it now. It enables its micro payments to publishers, right now with BTC, but in the future with archaic dollars. Yes, I know this is confusing: you pay with Bitcoin but the distributed ledger is built on Ethereum.

You’re probably thinking basic attention tokens will never get a foothold in an existing and powerful online advertising business, because micropayments have failed before. But here is why I think it will:

  1. Brave, the browser, was founded by the guy who invented Javacript, and he has assembled an all star team. I would have invested in it just for the team, but I couldn’t because
  2. It raised $35m in an ICO that closed in 35 seconds. It had so many people wanting to invest that it brought down the major BTC wallet sites, including Coinbase (mine), so people couldn’t do transactions quickly enough. Brave sold a limited number of BAT (Brave Attention Tokens), which is the currency users will eventually use to pay publishers through the browser.
  3. 25% of the population already blocks ads and trackers, but merely doing that throws smaller publishers out of business, and limits the innovative capabilities of even the largest publishers.
  4. The browser experience is faster than I’ve ever experienced before. Chrome has become a bloated POS, and Safari crashed all the time. Firefox, though better, is still not ideal.
  5. Safari and Chrome are already introducing versions of their browsers that block ads, but have no way to pay publishers. That’s just not fair.

I’m thinking that either the Brave browser will catch on, or at the very least the BAT currency units themselves will be adopted by the leading browsers. Either way, the distributed ledger will clean up much of the fraud and lack of transparency that has plagued online advertising up to now, destroyed publishers, and made advertisers uncertain of what they receive for their advertising spend.

Yeah. I’m an idealist.

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francine hardaway

francine hardaway

Co-founder, Stealthmode Partners, helping entrepreneurs succeed

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