You have to be Brave to disrupt the advertising world

privacy advertising
Image credit: Iakov Filimonov /

It is not big news to say that a growing number of internet users are frustrated by programmatic advertising. It is bigger news to say that more than a quarter of US internet users block ads (this rises to 50% on some tech savvy sites) and really pretty big news to say that 50% of our data is consumed by ads and trackers.

We are also bored or jealous or both by the fact that between them Facebook and Google command 58% of the digital advertising market.

The number of people who want to do something about this is growing. We are now beyond the small group of mavericks, journalists and college professors who are angry. We are now entering the phase where smart people are seeing a commercial advantage in being different. They may be ahead of their time but their time is definitely coming.

One such person is Brendan Eich. He was founder of Mozilla and has had a stellar journey through a Silicon Valley that was growing so fast that details such as ethics and long term best practice were laughed at and ignored.

His latest project which has been in the works for a year or two is Brave.

Brave, more of an ecosystem than simply a browser, is based around user’s privacy.

It aims to manage advertising in a fair and just way. Programmatic advertising is broken, the targeting is off and it encourages frustration and bad practice rather than good. Ad fraud itself is a large part of the problem and one that the World Federation of Advertisers believe will be a $50 billion a year problem by 2025.

Essentially Brave gives users choices.

There is a token system called – wait for it – the Basic Attention Token (BAT). This system rewards users for agreeing (opting in) to watch ads. The ads are based on your behaviour online and is not kept or analysed centrally (there is a smart ad server pushed to your device when you sign up). You can use the BATs to contribute to sites that you visit regularly and you find useful or entertaining. You can choose not to see ads from these sites or any others that you do not want to.

The process, once you have signed up, is automatic and managed on Brave’s own blockchain platform.

Brave is not alone in this first proper skirmish of the Privacy Wars. Partners include The Washington Post, Dow Jones, the Guardian, Vice and Slate. Other privacy minded technology partners are also on board, too.

As the world wakes up to the pillage that has been going on for the last few years and Governments, regulators and customers begin to seek answers and a fairer system, companies such as Brave are leading the counter attack.

While we see and have seen for some time how broken the system is (perhaps broken is a bit strong, but certainly not explained in clear English), companies like Brave will pave the way for what could ultimately be fairer for advertisers, publishers and users alike.

And along the way they will light the most disruptive fire under the advertising industry the world has ever seen.

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