Brave Browser and Basic Attention Token: Putting You in Charge of the Attention Economy

Online advertising is broken, and Basic Attention Token (BAT) is a project that plans to fix it. Its creators, Brendan Eich (inventor of JavaScript/former Mozilla CEO) and Brian Bondy (Mozilla/KhanAcademy) claim that their system can give users greater privacy while allowing advertisers to better target their ads. Even better: the user gets a cut of the advertising revenue, giving them control over where it goes. BAT’s basic premise is that your attention is worth something, and you should have the tools to manage it.

What’s broken?


Ads can slow down page load times, contain malware, track you, and gather personal information on you, which is why many people choose to block them. But doing that cuts off an important revenue stream for online content creators and publishers, and if they don’t get that money, you might not get their content in the future.

What is Basic Attention Token?


Basic Attention Token refers to both a cryptocurrency (BAT) and the advertising platform that uses it. It is currently integrated into the Brave browser – a privacy-focused, ad-blocking browser that was the BAT team’s first project. Brave, as well as other browsers and apps that may support the platform through extensions, can measure how much attention a user pays to an ad, charge the advertiser, and pay both the publisher/creator and the user.

How does BAT work?


You can follow along with these steps using the diagram above.

  1. Advertisers buy the BAT cryptocurrency and put their ad and the type of user they want to see it into the system.
  2. A user visits a website run by a publisher using the BAT system.
  3. The user’s browser, which collects anonymous information on the user’s browsing habits (all stored locally; never shared), matches the user with a targeted ad.
  4. The user’s BAT-enabled browser uses something like this formula to calculate the price of the ad/the user’s attention: “(Time visible on page) x (size of ad in pixels).”
  5. This information is sent to the advertiser, who automatically pays the calculated amount of BAT to the website and to the user.
  6. The publisher/creator receives a part of the payment (15% to 70%, depending on the ad type), which they can turn into other currency.
  7. The user receives payment (also 15% to 70%, dependent on ad type), which they can donate to a publisher/creator, spend on premium content, or even convert to a different currency.

Anonymous targeted ads

For the system to work, the browser needs to build a profile of your preferences that it can base your ads on. Better-targeted ads are worth more to advertisers, translating to fewer ads in total. Your data is never released, though – any information the browser gathers on you stays on your device. If the program sees you visiting Wikipedia, coffee shop websites, and a .edu domain, it might show you ads for textbook rentals, but the advertiser won’t know who saw the ad or why – just that someone saw it.

Automatic cryptocurrency payments

BAT is a fully-functioning cryptocurrency that you can currently purchase on exchanges. Advertisers will need to buy this coin so that they can buy ad space, which gives the currency real value on the market. Once their ad is viewed, they send part of the payment to the publisher whose site hosted the ad and part of it to you (anonymously, of course).

User control over ad revenue

For the publisher/creator, BAT is instantly transferable into other currencies. Users have more options for their earnings:

  • They can donate tokens by either manually selecting their preferred recipients or by setting the browser to automatically donate to their most-visited sites.
  • They can buy content, subscribe, or pay for other premium services if publishers offer a BAT payment option.
  • They can (or will be able to; this option is not yet available) withdraw the BAT and exchange it for another currency.

Sounds great! How do I get started?

BAT Ads haven’t started yet (so no money for looking at ads), but you can get a head start by setting up the Brave browser where all the action is unfolding.

1. Download the Brave browser.


2. Open up the built-in wallet, which you can find in the browser settings.


3. Fund the built-in wallet by sending other cryptocurrencies to it.


4. Use your BAT to pay publishers and content creators. You can either choose where you want your money to go, or just tell Brave to automatically donate to your most-visited sites.


The future?

Basic Attention Token will need to finish up its software and build a big enough user base to attract advertisers before it can work as it is designed to. Though if it takes off, it could solve a lot of problems. As complex as it is behind the scenes, the final product, once it comes out, is aimed at being as user-friendly as possible. Anyone should be able to set it and forget it, so you only have to be as involved to the extent that you want to be.

Andrew Braun Andrew Braun

Andrew Braun is a lifelong tech enthusiast with a wide range of interests, including travel, economics, math, data analysis, fitness, and more. He is an advocate of cryptocurrencies and other decentralized technologies, and hopes to see new generations of innovation continue to outdo each other.

One comment

  1. “What’s broken?”
    What’s broken is the basic business model that makes publishers rely on users viewing ads.

    “The user’s browser, which collects anonymous information on the user’s browsing habits (all stored locally; never shared), matches the user with a targeted ad.”
    Right now the information gathered is anonymous and stored locally. How long before the info ceases to be collected anonymously and becomes shared?

    “Anonymous targeted ads”
    How does me visiting Wikipedia, coffee shop site and .edu domain equate to textbook rental ad? I, for one, will not need a textbook rental ever again. The algorithms make too many unwarranted assumptions and offer, at best, hit or miss results. I doubt if many people will allow the level of privacy invasion necessary for targeted ads to be truly effective.

    “Automatic cryptocurrency payments”
    Is that supposed to be an incentive for me to forego my ad-blocker??? They’d better find another sucker. What has happened with cryptocurrencies in the last year or two reminds me of the 1630s Tulip Mania. The valuations of tulip bulbs reached sky high values then in 1637 tulip bulbs were worth no more than onion bulbs.

    “the final product, once it comes out, is aimed at being as user-friendly as possible”
    Data harvesting is never user-friendly.

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