There are a handful of utility tokens that are actively being used in conjunction with a functioning product. The Basic Attention Token or BAT is a prime example of just that. In this article we’ll take a closer look at BAT and the associated Brave Browser discussing how they work and primary motivations behind the project.
What is the Brave Browser?
Brave is a browser that adds a blockchain twist to ad blocking, privacy, and revenue generation for creators. It’s no secret that ads and tracking have take over the internet. By doing so, we have an environment filled with click-bait, fake news, slow performance, low quality content, and compromised privacy. This has created a user revolt with many adopting ad blocking technologies. Publishers have responded by creating paywalls and restricting content access. An example is shown for Forbes’ magazine, which prevents you from accessing its articles if it detects an ad blocker. When you turn off ad blocking, you are met with a full page ad and even more ads once you finally get to the article. This isn’t only annoying, but it significantly slows performance.
The Brave browser seeks to fix this by eliminating embedded ads, pop-ups, and even whitelist requests. That said, the team behind Brave understands that publishers and creators need to make money, and that’s where the Basic Attention Token comes in.
What are Basic Attention Tokens (BATs)?
BAT is an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain that fuels the Brave ecosystem. In a nutshell, it’s the currency that users can contribute to creators in return for consuming their content. Once you have some BAT in your wallet (within the browser) you can choose which sites you’d like to contribute to and how much. The browser keeps track of your website or YouTube viewing and allocates BAT proportionally. Creators who have verified site ownership are eligible to receive BAT and you can select who to include in your payout as shown in the screenshot.
You may be surprised by how many websites are verified and participating in this blockchain ‘experiment’, but honestly, who would turn down free money? If you have your own website or YouTube channel you can participate by verifying ownership and setting up an Uphold account.
How Does Brave Compare?
Overall, the browser lives up to its mission of maintaining privacy and blocking ads. That said it is still a work in progress, especially with its BAT payment system. It is still a manual process and prone to bugs here and there. Even so, the browser is under active development and improving all the time.
As far browsers go, it seems to adhere to industry standards and has a small but growing number of extensions. This is where other browsers like Chrome or Firefox have a distinct advantage, but over time I expect many extensions to be ported.
A key feature that Brave touts is faster load times, which I can attest to. When compared to Chrome or Firefox load times are much faster, especially for sites with a lot of ads. Brave explains it in their own words in the following video.
Overall, it’s a good browser and I encourage you to give it a test drive. Right now I mainly use it as my “news” browser and it works quite well. If you’d like to support this site, you can give it a test run by downloading the browser here (referral).
What Could be Improved?
The BAT payment system is a bit buggy, possibly because it’s a manual process. In the future it’d be ideal to automate the process and make sure it can scale on the Ethereum blockchain. From a technical perspective, I’d be a bit worried about relying on a non-native chain to process transactions, especially if the user base becomes very large and creators demand more frequent payments.
Porting Firefox/Chrome extensions and encouraging developers to contribute to the Brave ecosystem would pay long-term dividends. Right now basic extensions are in place and porting shouldn’t be too much effort. It’s something worth taking seriously.
A feature that could be interesting is allowing websites to set their access fees. This could automatically be paid in BAT, providing immediate access and settlement. Right now payments to creators are strictly voluntary and publishers cannot set an access fee. In the future it’d be nice to be able to simply pay for a month’s access or a single article with BAT tokens. However, this would create a lot of micro-transactions, clogging the Ethereum network, and sending fees through the roof. Scaling anyone?
Should I invest in BAT?
BAT is a true utility token. It has a specific purpose confined to a particular ecosystem and industry. That said, it also functions as a currency within that ecosystem and can be traded for other digital currencies or assets. All that to say, that it does have value. The primary question is, how much? This is a perpetual and difficult question in the greater cryptospace and utility tokens in general. Since BAT is constrained to a particular vertical (digital advertising/publishing) it will likely be valued based on that sector. Granted, this is a very large sector with the likes of Google and Facebook generating $100B+ in ad revenue. Though we can’t, and don’t provide investment advice, it is worth monitoring Brave browser adoption and the velocity of the currency. In a follow-up article we will provide a more in-depth analysis that seeks to elicit the parameters that impact token value.