Ben Livshits: Brave is more than just a browser with a crypto wallet
Brave is the first browser that pays its users for watching ads. It also maintains their privacy, unlike Google Chrome. Ben Livshits, scientific supervisor of Brave Software, in his interview for LetKnow.News told us how the principle of advertising delivery using cryptocurrency can be changed.
- Tell us about yourself, what are you doing and how did you ended up in Brave?
- I am the head of the scientific direction of Brave. Prior to that, I studied at Stanford, where I received PhD in computer science. After that, I worked for about 10 years at Microsoft Research. There I was engaged in applied researches in the field of informatics, which combine the scientific and practical part, including the introduction of the company's products. Also, I was a professor at Imperial College London.
That’s the experience that fits my profile and my activities in Brave. In fact, it is a combination of the best scientific developments and practical approach.
- What exactly are you responsible for in the company?
- To put it simply, we work on tasks that exceed the threshold of technical complexity. We have a team of researchers. Our range of tasks is quite extensive: from machine learning to data privacy, cryptography, browser optimisation.
Also, we work on software energy consumption and on the efficiency of what the browser does in terms of blocking. All these things are quite knowledge-intensive.
For example, correct measuring of the energy consumption of a working Android device is actually not such an easy task, and it requires the knowledge at a sufficient level both the software and the hardware behind it. And everyone who works in my team specialises in certain areas of science.
- It turns out Brave - is a synthesis of technology and a scientific approach in the form of a commercial product?
- Yes, it turns out that without understanding of what is happening in the scientific field and communication with people who work in science, it is impossible to build an effective product. Indeed, being in isolation it is difficult to find out what info you lack. Therefore, for a company with long-term plans, communication with the academic environment is necessary. Both in order to create scientific works, and for their implementation in action.
- How does Brave differ from other browsers and what problems does it solve?
- The differences exist on several levels. In terms of energy consumption, Brave consumes 40% less smartphone battery power. It is also another browser experience. For an ordinary user who does not want to deal with tokens and cryptocurrencies, we have improved the experience of interracing with the Internet, which is partly concerns higher speed and lower memory consumption.
We will block ads from third parties, but this is a process that can be optimised. Our browser is an example of how, regardless of cryptocurrency, you can create an improved user experience on the Internet, if you know how to do it.
The second feature is browser’s built-in
crypto wallet for Basic Attention Token, which in a sense is the center of communication between the user and the BAT system. It is tied to the emerging advertising delivery system built into the browser itself, which is what strongly distinguishes us from other browsers. Also in many ways, this system creates a gate to the crypto industry environment for an ordinary user.
The main feature of our browser is a fundamentally different way of delivering advertising, which is based on the principle of data privacy. As well as minimising possible annoyance of the user, because we do not want to burden users with unnecessary and uninteresting advertising.
That is, the maximisation of the relevance of advertising. In fact advertisers are also interested in it. Because for advertisers in the industry the situation is very difficult. If they pay per million displays and receive just one purchase, it is clear that this is a very ineffective advertisement and our browser solves this problem.
And one more direction of our team’s work, Web.3.0, is the Internet of the new generation, which is based on distributed and decentralised applications.
- They say users can make money on ads of the browser?
- Yes, rewarding our users for their participation in the ads system is one of the principles of our browser. So, each user viewing of an ad is awarded with BAT tokens. And the user can either store these tokens on a crypto wallet, or in the future one can chose to spend them on accessing the content of premium services. For example, you watched several advertising posts first, then received your reward and then chose to spent some of it on watching a movie.
We want to create an ecosystem in which users shall earn and spend these tokens. Given that the percentage of users who are willing to pay for premium content is low.
- Tell us about Basic Attention Token (BAT) and what is its role in the Brave ecosystem?
- I will tell you about the two advertising delivery systems. The first - delivers advertising directly to the user, this pop-up message. So, the browser itself tells you that there is such an advertising offer. If you view it, you will receive the reward on your crypto wallet for the time and attention spent.
The second subsystem is the ads integrated directly into the page itself. This method is to be launched towards the end of the year, since it requires serious cooperation with partners and this is a rather laborious process. I think that the system will grow and major advertising agencies will join us. Moreover, thanks to paid ads viewing, we will be able to support independent media and other information platforms.
For example, when we announced YouTube channels support, about 15,000 YouTube users switched to the Brave system. That’s quite a number, which can explained by the fact that the monetisation policy on the platform had changed, and many are looking for something else. Therefore, our users are a kind of refugees of the old system.
- How do you make publishers and advertisers to join your system?
- For publishers there is an entry system - a separate site where they subscribe and pass KYC. As for advertisers - they are still being joined manually. We choose and recruit them ourselves in accordance with our business goals.
- Who is your average user?
- We do not collect such information about our users for privacy reasons. But from feedbacks we might conclude that, we dominate among people who use cryptocurrencies. However, their number is limited. So the question of exponential growth of the product remains open.
Now we have about 6 million users, this is a good dynamic for a crypto product, because very few people have such a user base. But at the same time, it is necessary to understand that for the time being this is still a somewhat niche product, and there is plenty of space for growth and expansion, and that’s what we are working on.
- There is an opinion that crypto browsers are not more than a just a hype and there is no practical application for them.
- To some extent it is true. But we are trying to be much more than just a wallet in a crypto browser. This is just a part of what we do. And access to content and advertising delivery system is much more than that. A wallet is only a tool to achieve some goals. Probably, I agree with this statement, since the wallet is not so difficult to build. Therefore, it is more important to build different scenarios and create an ecosystem on their basis.
- Brave is in collaboration with HTC and the Cheddar resource. Is it just marketing or something more?
- This is an example of long-term partnerships in terms of spreading the number of users. Installing the Brave browser on the HTC smartphone by default is definitely a positive step. And Cheddar is a content delivery platform that is very modern and open to experiments and innovations. I think in the future there will be more examples of such partnerships.
- In your opinion, what is the value of Bitcoin and what impact has it had on the financial system and the world as a whole?
- I think it is too early to judge. 10 years is a very short time. We will be able to draw proper conclusions in 30 years. I think that there will be significant changes, but which ones exactly is not known just yet.
- What are the goals of the Brave project in the long term?
- One of the long-term goals is to change the monetisation of the Internet. The Internet, which was free in 1999 is gone. The Internet, which was effectively based on advertising in 2005, has changed a lot. Now there is an Internet of closed ecosystems. I think the time has come to change the principles again and this is also what we are doing now.
It is also a change of the advertising delivery principles, which are based on privacy, and not on the surveillance of users. This is a very important principle. And in general, it all depends on the dynamics of the Internet development and the economy behind it, because without the economy it is impossible to encourage people and content creators. Therefore, we expect a change in user behaviour in the physical world, not just in virtual reality.
- What trends are we going to see in crypto industry in 2019?
- I think that what we have seen in the last 6 months is a process of maturation, including the systems for evaluating projects and the products themselves. And one can clearly see that. Just a year ago, we saw a crazy rush and a splash, but now there are no such things. And this means that those projects that are more successful are the ones with stronger teams behind them.
But on the other hand, it was important to have such a moment of explosion. After all, projects that otherwise would never be financed, suddenly take off and people get both popularity and money. But this is a very rapid change in the market. And this is something interesting to watch.