What is Basic Attention Token(BAT) ?
Basic Attention Token(BAT) is an ERC 20 token. It is native utility token for Basic attention economy. It acts as a incentive layer that governs the actions of publishers, users and advertisers on the internet using game theory. Basic Attention Token was released by Brave foundation on 31 May 2017.
Current online advertising model is broken:
- Users do not want to see ads.
- Publishers force users to see ads.
- And advertisers are getting cheated as most of their ads are being seen by bots and not humans.
Online advertising is an important part web ecosystem. It helps users to become aware of new products and publishers to offer their content for free to viewers. Basic Attention Token aims to make advertising more ethical and align incentives of viewers, publishers and advertisers.
What is Brave browser ?
Most of the internet ecosystem does not employ privacy at base layer rather as an add on feature. Brave is a privacy focused browser which was released on 13 November 2019. It blocks all ads, third party cookies and trackers by default. As a result it is faster, uses less memory and battery as compared to other browsers.
Brave users can choose to see ads if they want. Users get paid in BAT every time they view an ad. They can then use BAT to tip publishers or redeem in fiat. Brave uses machine learning to show non intrusive ads at right time and place.
What problems does it solve ?
Current advertising model is plagued with problems:
- Big tech companies spy on users.
- Users do not want to see ads: Here is graph showing rise of popular ad blockers on desktop and mobile:
- Here is result of a survey which asked people for reasons for using ad blockers:
- It takes more bandwidth to load ads than actual content resulting in increase of monthly mobile bill costs.
- Digital advertising fraud: Most of the ads are viewed by bots and not targeted humans.
- Google and Facebook take major portion of advertising share acting as middleman. Publisher get whatever is leftover and viewers are not compensated at all.
- Present ad system is too complex and broken: There are countless intermediaries that take their cut from the advertising budget resulting in less revenue for the publishers who are doing all the heavy-lifting.
- Here is a diagram of a typical HTTPS request being routed through the intermediaries.
- Most of the people who use adblockers are tech-savvy, young, well educated, and financially well off. It is difficult to target this audience using traditional advertising mediums.
What's the vision ?
Basic Attention Token(BAT) aims to make the current advertising model ethical. It wants to align incentives of publishers, users, and advertisers so that no single party is exploited. BAT wants:
- For users: Only relevant ads be shown after their consent. Their privacy and security should be preserved. Users should also be compensated for their attention.
- Publishers: Being adequately compensated for their work.
- Advertisers: No ad fraud and honest reporting.
How does it work ?
Brave browser tracks all the user activities but instead of sending the data to central servers user profile is created in the browser itself. This approach has two major advantages:
- User data stays on their PC. This ensures complete privacy and security of user data.
- Browser is able to gather much more data that third party cookies cannot. This helps in making accurate user profile and only relevant ads being shown.
If the user has opted to see ads then Brave browser downloads ads catalog from their servers. Users are shown relevant ads from this catalog as per the frequency decided by user.
Users and publisher are compensated for the ads as:
- Viewer ad: Appear on separate tab. Viewers gets 70 % and Brave foundation gets 30 % of the total ad spend. Publisher are not compensated for this type of ad because the ad does not appear on publisher content but on the Browser tab. Here is an example of viewer ad:
- Publisher ads: These ads appear in publisher’s content. Publishers get 70 % whereas viewers and Brave foundation get equal 15 % each of the ad spend.
Users can then use the earned BAT tokens to tip their favorite content creators or convert it to fiat.
BAT is an ERC 20 token. It uses Ethereum blockchain to record BAT transactions.
Brave is using Ethereum blockchain for recording final settlement of BAT transactions, however it lacks transparency in intermediate steps. For example: users cannot go on blockchain and verify how much advertiser had spend and are they actually getting their fair share of as revenue.
This is understandable because Ethereum cannot scale to accommodate all transactions. But Brave must plan to address these issues regarding transparency by making source code of their ad platform opensource and exploring blockchain scaling solutions.
BAT whitepaper was published on 07 January, 2018. You can read BAT whitepaper here.
Brave is a fully functional privacy browser capable of blocking ads and supports BAT token. You can download Brave browser here.
On 28 May 2015, CEO Brendan Eich and CTO Brian Bondy founded Brave Software.
Brian R Brondy is CTO at Brave he has worked at some pretty cool places like Khan Academy, Mozilla, and Evernote.
Brave team is as under:
Yan Zhu, Chief information security officer was part of Forbes 30 under 30. She was also elected to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Technical Architecture Group (TAG).
Although BAT and Brave are opensource, the code is maintained and updated by Brave foundation. The users can submit their ideas and recommendation for Brave foundation to consider, but they do not have a direct role in BAT governance.
Brave is not a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) neither do they have any plans to become one in the near future. Brave is a for profit company with a clear profit model i.e. taking a cut in advertising revenue.
Hence this opens up the BAT ecosystem to all the risks that come with centralization in terms of governance.
Brave foundation is a single point of failure in terms of government regulation, founder differences, making changes to protocol like increasing the max token supply, having a follow on token offerings etc.
Although there are many Brave competitors but none of them have made as much progress and have such a capable team.
Moreover, Brave team is tackling problem in right order: They have developed Brave browser which is truly awesome and brings in loads of users that can be subsequently monetized.
How do existing incumbents like Google and Facebook compare to Brave ?
Existing advertising business models puts incumbents like Google and Facebook at a serious disadvantage as compared to BAT:
- They cannot afford to share advertising revenue with users.
- It is very difficult for them to become as privacy and security focused as Brave. Even if somehow they become privacy and security focused, it will be very difficult for public to believe them.
- Other browser cannot be as fast as Brave till the time they keep wasting bandwidth and time in loading third party tracking scripts and ads.
- Brave can fight ad fraud problem better. It is easier to see if a genuine human is using a browser using machine learning and sensors on the device that differentiate human movements than relying on cookies.
- Existing players like Google are big and hence less agile. Brave has already started supporting web 3.0 standards like IPFS and Blockchain naming services. I expect other browsers like chrome, Mozilla etc to be slow in adopting future web developments
- Brave can show much more relevant targeted ads to its users because Brave uses browser which gathers more user information than third party cookies. Brave claims to have around 4 times better click through rate as compared to other advertisement platforms.
Brave is working at a lower level of abstraction ie Browser level which opens up a plethora of possibilities which are not accessible by cookies being used by Facebook, Twitter etc.
You can check out Brave future roadmap here. Some of the major highlights of Brave future roadmap are as follows:
Brave acquired Tailcat search engine and integrated it to its ecosystem as Brave search. This opens up a plethora of future opportunities for Brave in terms of monetizing search engine and competing with Google.
Brave is using Google search engine API for long tail searches which are difficult to match till the time they are able to built their own index. This was a very clever move by Brave as they are using their main competitor to their advantage till the time they become self reliant.
Brave is also working on a very interesting concept called Goggles which gives users ability to rearrange search results helping search engine to rank content better. It is a new concept capable of revolutionizing how search engine work.
Brave ad platform
Brave ad SDK
Brave will also be releasing Ads SDK to developers so that they can integrate Brave ads in their softwares and apps
Selling premium features
Brave also plans to add and sell additional functionality like VPN to Brave browser as premium service.
Brave crypto wallet
Brave wallet has positioned itself very well as a gateway to BAT ecosystem. Brave foundation plans to leverage it to integrate additional defi functionality like swaps, buying cryptocurrencies and NFT marketplace etc.
Users can also submit any feature that they want to see in the future here.
How much money do they have for future development ?
Brave foundation raised 35 million dollars by selling 1.5 Billion BAT tokens during ICO offering in 2017. They do not plan to have any subsequent BAT follow on token offering.
Brave is private company, hence we cannot see their financial statements but they take 15 to 30 % of the advertisement share which puts them in a very healthy place. They can use this ongoing stream of revenue to fund their future projects.
Brave certainly seems to have got their timing right as all the macro indicators seem to be in their favor:
- People have started to caring about their privacy and security more than ever before and the trend seems to be increasing.
- Brands have discovered advantages of spending their ad budget online rather than using traditional media like newspaper and TV etc. As a result they are increasing their digital advertising budget every year.
- Every year internet and smart phones are becoming even more accessible. As a result more and more people have started using internet.
Brave ecosystem has a network effect in which new users attract more publishers and advertisers. These new publisher attract even more viewers – this has a cascading effect resulting in exponential growth.
Risks & Challenges
Some of the major risks that BAT may has to face in near future are:
- I do not expect existing incumbents like Google and Facebook to give a free run to Brave. Currently Brave is too small for these giants to consider, however they may try to buy them out or add new features in their applications to compete with Brave.
- Like every Ethereum project, they also have to find a suitable way to scale transactions and reduce gas costs.
- They may have to explore privacy options like monero to make blockchain transactions and contracts private to hide user activities. This may be used for illegal purposes like money laundering.
- Once their ad platform is launched they will have to find a way to improve transparency by adding more data on chain without compromising privacy. Currently viewers and publishers do not have any way to verify that they are being compensated adequately. Neither does advertiser has any way to check how their advertising budget was spend. All these parties are reliant and have to trust statistics reported in Brave dashboard. It would have been better if trust was established using Blockchain.
- Just like Google they will also have to find a way to review ads before publishing so that ads relating to child pornography etc do not find their way to Brave ecosystem.
- They cannot stop anyone from using Brave browser but they have power like Facebook and Google to ban advertisers and publishers that are reviewed by them. This makes the system centralized.
Brave has managed to get involved in many controversies since its brief existence. Brave tries to distinguish itself from others by being more transparent and honest. This is the reason why controversies will affect Brave much more than existing incumbents like Facebook and Google.
- Brave browser collecting donations on behalf of content creators: In December of 2018, British YouTube content creator Tom Scott said that he had not received any donations collected on his behalf by Brave browser.
- Insertion of referral codes: On 6 June 2020, a Twitter user pointed out that Brave inserts affiliate referral codes when users type a URL of Binance into the address bar, which earns Brave commission.
Further research revealed that Brave redirects the URLs of other cryptocurrency exchange websites, too. In response to the backlash from the users, Brave’s CEO apologized and called it a “mistake” and said “we’re correcting”.
- Private Window with Tor DNS leaks: One privacy issue, promptly patched, appeared via a private disclosure on Brave’s HackerOne bug bounty platform on 12 January 2021. The disclosure reported that Brave was leaking DNS requests to the user’s DNS provider, allowing internet service providers to see domain names the user was visiting if requests were not encrypted with HTTPS, even while using “Private Window with Tor”. Brave did not enable DNS over HTTPS by default, leaving most users vulnerable.
It is understandable that Brave is a new and bold project, hence difficulties and bugs are expected along the way. But taking tips on behalf of creators and redirecting URLs typed by users to add their own affiliate link are not technical but mistakes of character and integrity.
In 2017 Brave minted 1.5 billion BAT tokens and distributed it as follows:
- Brave: 200 million
- User growth pool: 300 million
- Token available to public at launch: 1 billion
BAT token ICO was held on 31 may 2017 in wich Brave raised 35 million dollars by selling 1 billion BAT tokens. Brave foundation will use the raised money as follows
- BAT Development team: (58% of budget) The team consists of over 20 engineers who focus on improving the functionality of BAT.
- Administration: (10% of budget) Consists of BAT legal, security, accounting
and other associated administration costs.
- Marketing: (12% of budget) Marketing will focus on expanding awareness and
adoption of the Brave browser and the BAT solution among users, publishers and
advertisers. This also includes the growth and maintenance of the world-wide
- Contractors: (13% of budget) These funds will be directed at third-party providers offering engineering, marketing, growth-hacking, PR, partnerships, affiliate programs and more.
- Contingency: (7% of budget) This is a set-aside for unforeseen costs.
BAT token has a max supply of 1.5 billion tokens all of which is in circulation. Brave foundation do not plan to increase token supply or have any follow on token offerings.
There is no vesting schedule for token holders. All the token holders are free to sell their holdings as per their convenience.
Demand pressure on a token increases its price.
Demand pressure on BAT will come from:
- Advertisers: They will have to acquire BAT to buy advertisement space.
- Fans: They will acquire BAT to tip their favorite content creators.
- Speculators: There will always be speculators who will acquire tokens purely for price appreciation.
Supply pressure on a token decreases its price.
Sell/ Supply pressure on BAT will come from:
- Publishers: They will cash out BAT earner to invest in their business.
- Users: Some Brave users will cash out earned BAT tokens instead of tipping publishers.
- Brave Foundation: Brave foundation can sell some of their holdings to fund future operations.
It is not possible to get an accurate estimate which of the two pressure will be more, but I feel that it will be demand pressure resulting in price appreciation. You can also check out what Brave think about price of BAT in the future here: BAT Price stability whitepaper.
All the max supply of tokens is already in the market. Hence BAT does not have any inflation.
There are no whales holding large portion of BAT whose dumping can crash BAT price in the short term.
There are no whales holding large portion of BAT whose dumping can crash BAT price in the short term.
BAT is going after a multi billion industry which is growing every year. It would be interesting to see how much market pie Brave is able to acquire. Current price of BAT token in USD is as under:
Indicators to watch out for
- Google trend result for ” Brave browser ” is on rise: More people are downloading and using Brave browser.
- Google trend result for ” Download VPN ” is on rise: Number of people looking for a privacy and security solution for surfing the web are increasing. Most of them will eventually discover Brave browser and enter the BAT ecosystem.
- Brave YouTube subscribers and views are increasing: More people are following growth of BAT and Brave ecosystem.
- Number of likes on Facebook are increasing
- Their Twitter following is also growing: More people are getting interested in getting the latest news about Brave and BAT developments.
- Their Reddit growth is as follows: More people are discussing about Brave and BAT.
- Their Telegram growth seems to have stagnated: Brave users and developers are not so active on telegram.
- Brave daily active users growth are increasing: More and more people are downloading and using Brave browser.
- Brave verified creators are increasing: More and more content creators are monetizing their content using Brave ads.
- Active Brave ads campaign are increasing: More and more brands are using Brave ad platform and buying ad space on Brave.
For updated stats on Brave publishers, daily active users, active ad campaigns click here.
All the indicators indicate that BAT ecosystem is growing.
I expect BAT ecosystem to find utility in a wide range of applications over the long term. Some of the possible best case scenarios which are super bullish for BAT are as follows:
- BAT has the potential to become native online currency if BAT wallet and Brave browser are successful. All the e-commerce players like Netflix, Amazon etc will accept BAT because of its ease of use and speed as its wallet is integrated to the browser. Users would also like to redeem their earned BAT tokens to buy real world goods. Here is an example of popular game accepting BAT for in-game purchases.
- Publishers will accept micro BAT payments for giving access to their premium content instead of expecting tip from viewers. Micropayments is a good solution for users who want to view limited premium content instead of buying monthly/annual subscription.
- There can be social media platform where users like/ dislike the content backed by their BAT tokens. Likes/dislikes backed by BAT will have more weight.
- BAT wallet is a serious competitors to other popular wallet extensions like metamask. Wallet market is large and Brave wallet has positioned itself at perfect spot to become the native online wallet. Brave wallet can be monetized to accept fees on services like swaps and buying cryptos.
- Brave search has potential to become next market leader. Brave foundation has plans to monetize their search engine. It will be interesting to see how they compete with Google search which has some of the largest talent pool and funds for development.
- BAT token functionality can be extended to show ads in other applications and softwares.
Brave foundation plans to make profit solving a relevant problem – best form of capitalism in my opinion.
Advertising is not bad in itself. It helps publisher to get compensated for their hard work and customers become aware about new products. However it becomes annoying when done in excess and compromises user security. Brave tries to make digital advertising model more ethical and align incentives of users, publishers and advertisers which will make digital world a better place.
Tokenomics and timing for investing in BAT seem right as we Brave foundation has already done the heavy lifting part by proving their products work, all that remains is scaling the existing solutions.
And finally, I believe that Brave is really cool browser😎. You can download it here.