Browser Offers 'Brave' Solution To Ad Blocking, Will Cut Users And Publishers In

At a time when both Madison Avenue and the digital publishing community it depends on are struggling to find a solution to the potentially existential threat of ad blocking, one of the Internet’s most visionary developers is introducing a new browser and a bold economic model that could transform the economics of digital advertising. The platform, which is being unveiled this morning by Mozilla founder and former CEO Brendan Eich, is called Brave. It lives up to its name by introducing a new model that bypasses conventional ad serving and redirects ad placements on users’ browsers with ones generated by Brave and its partner, independent SSP Sonobi.

The concept is not entirely new. So-called “ad injector” models that effectively block ads sold by publishers and redirect them to ads sold by the software developer have been around for years, but generally they have been exploited by nefarious characters operating on the fringe of the digital ad industry’s grey market, and their models generally are not made explicit to users that download their software.

What’s different about Brave’s approach is that it is making its bypass-and-redirect model 100% explicit to users, advertisers, agencies and publishers -- and most importantly, offering to cut them all in on the revenue it generates.

“The revenue is not only shared with the publishers, but a small slice will go to our users,” Eich explained in a briefing to Real-Time Daily, adding that the amount of the revenue going direct to users is “probably not going to buy them a free dinner,” but it is a recognition that they are part of the economic process.

The main reason he believes users will embrace the model is that it is a new permission-based way for them to redirect money back to their favorite publishers, because Brave will apportion the majority of the revenue it derives to publishers based on a user’s browsing preferences.

"It’s a way to pay for my top 20 sites without having to go through a pay wall,” Eich said.

Brave is also exploring pay-wall models that would enable users to pay publishers directly, because the point of the new browser platform is to give its users more control and a better experience than they’ve been getting from current and previous browsers, as well as finding an economic solution to ad blocking.

Among the browsers Brave will be competing with is Mozilla, the company Eich helped found after pioneering some of the Internet’s most important software, including JavaScript when he worked at seminal browser company Netscape. Eich, who stepped down as CEO of Mozilla nearly two years ago following a backlash surrounding a small personal donation he made to California’s controversial anti-gay Proposition 8, is committed to developing the next generation of user browsing experiences, and Brave has several technical element to it that promise to transform the way people use the Internet.

He claims that the browser software itself is better, faster and more state-of-the-art in terms of loading pages for users than any of the current versions of other popular browsers from Mozilla, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. But Eich says the browser is also attached to two components that differentiate the user experience from others, including a “data vault” for each user, as well as a “digital wallet” leveraging digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin for transactions.

Eich did not elaborate on how users would leverage their data vault in the beta version of Brave’s software, but he was explicit about the role of the wallet and Bitcoin as a transactional currency, calling it a “frictionless medium” for transferring money earned from selling the ads it redirects its users to.

The biggest question in Brave’s model is how publishers and users will react to it. While users will gain more control by becoming part of the economics supporting their favorite publishers, the model is being undertaken without the explicit consent of publishers.

“Basically, we’re just dropping money on them to the extent that users visit our system,” Eich explains, adding that Brave’s goal is not to become a new ad blocker, but to give users control over the advertising experience and enable them to become explicit stakeholders in underwriting their favorite publishers.

In its initial version, Eich says revenue derived by selling ads through Brave will be split four ways: 15% each will be distributed to the user, to Sonobi and to Brave, with 55% allocated to publishers.

Eich says he hopes to eventually get the share of revenue allocated to publishers up to the 30%/70% revenue-sharing model popularized by Apple, with 70% going to publishers and the rest divided among the other stakeholders.

Brave is still working out the logistics of the payment system. Sonobi, which has deep relationships with many publishers, will no doubt play a role, but the concept, according to Eich, is that the publisher's share will be deposited as Bitcoin currency into a digital wallet that each publisher will have their own secure key for accessing.

How publishers might react to the benevolent approach wasn’t clear at presstime, but it is one of the models being suggested by many industry thought leaders. It was among the ideas discussed at the Media Future Summit organized by MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield, The Wharton School, and MediaPost on Oct. 30, 2015, and is one of the topics of a new white paper series being published by them.

As for making consumers a direct party and cutting them in on the advertising they are exposed to, that model has also been gaining in interest, especially with the rise of ad blocking. The concept was also one of the “Top 7 Trends to Help Brands Target the New Consumer in 2016,” according to a new report from Omnicom’s Interbrand and Ready Set Rocket.

Eich says Brave is working with one of the big ad agencies on piloting the new model, and it will begin speaking with other agencies and advertisers based on their interest in testing it.

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5 comments about "Browser Offers 'Brave' Solution To Ad Blocking, Will Cut Users And Publishers In".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from DragonSearch, January 20, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

    Assuming this works, how long before Google does likewise via Chrome, as an extension of its ad business? Could the big winner be Sonobi, if it is acquired by Google (payday for the Sonobi insiders) or generates revnue in licensing fees? Will other ad tech comapnies step up to copy the Sonobi playbook?

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 20, 2016 at 11:57 a.m.

    The biggest question is not getting publishers to adopt it. It's the end user that matters, the person who is quite happy with Chrome or Firefox and not eager to migrate to a platform where all those add-on apps on the top bar will cease to function. No, thanks.

    Every solution I've seen so far seems to be sleight-of-hand to get the end user to welcome advertising. Again, no, thanks. As long as some upstart content provider gets me the information I need without any hurdles to clear, I can simply avoid the clever advertiser-supported schemes.

  3. ida tarbell from s-t broadcasting, January 20, 2016 at 2:53 p.m.

    I've been waiting to hear this since its inevitable:  They're going to have to pay us better than half what they get to get us to look at ads.  We're already paying for the net and will not pay more.

  4. PHILLIP HAWLEY from Hawley US, January 21, 2016 at 6:12 a.m.

    The reason that ad blocking exists in the first place was because of irritating ads. This is not a technological problem and I don't believe it will not be solved with a technological solution.

     

    Content blocking, no matter how tasteful the ad, is just as irritating as flashing banners, pop-up, etc.. I get to choose where I focus my attention. I don't resent publishers for profiting off their efforts. But I am the final arbiter of how my time is spent.

     

    There are sites I no longer visit due to the method of advertisement. Content is the draw. It is up to advertisers to lure and entice without alienating. It's up to the publisher to enforce advertising standards. Irritate me and I'm gone.

     

    There will always be effective counter-measures designed to defeat new technology. The only answer is to make ads that are desirable on their face and rewarding in their delivery. Anything less simply escalates the tension between publishers, advertisers and their target market.

  5. nik malinin from NOADSco, January 22, 2016 at 5:37 a.m.

    So the main question is how it is different from Internet 2 - www.i2.si which was launched before summer 2015? ?