Crypto-friendly web browser Brave attracted one million new users in March.
The uptick comes as an ever-increasing number of consumers stay at home because of the coronavirus pandemic—and spend more time online.
According to Brendan Eich, Brave’s co-founder and CEO, the browser had 13.5 million monthly active users last month, and 4.3 million daily active users.
Eich added that the company is hoping to increase the number of daily active users by meeting the needs of those who mostly rely on Google Chrome. A core way it does this is by offering load times that are three to six times faster, Brave claims. A strong focus on privacy is another. Rewarding users and content creators with cryptocurrency is a third.
A different approach
The co-founder of Firefox parent Mozilla, Eich’s stated aim is to “fix the internet” with Brave—and part of this plan involves paying users in crypto. A share of advertising revenue is distributed to users who agree to view ads in the form of Ethereum-based Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). This digital asset can then be cashed in or used to reward content creators on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.
Brave has pitched it’s BAT-based ecosystem as a way for content creators to beat the growing trend of using ad-blockers. Creators who sign up with Brave can be tipped directly by visitors, who can also set up a Patreon-like monthly tip. Or, users can simply activate an auto-tip feature that distributes BAT based on the time spent on a website.
The 32nd largest cryptocurrency by market cap according to CoinGecko, BAT has taken a beating recently, dropping from $0.32 to $0.14 in a month and a half. However, BAT got a boost on March 31, when the sixth-ranked cryptocurrency exchange by volume, BitStamp, added support for it and six more coins including Stellar, Paxos, USD Coin, and Zcash.
Brave isn’t alone in using cryptocurrency to allow viewers to reward content creators. The blockchain-based DLive video platform, recently purchased by Tron, rewards creators in much the same way
Brave’s emphasis on privacy means users can forego crypto rewards and opt out of advertisements altogether if they wish. Even if they don’t, advertisers can’t collect data about them. On the other hand, earning BAT requires actively viewing ads, so Brave advertisers know how many eyeballs they’re reaching.
In any case, Brave says it delivers a faster browsing experience than Chrome by blocking “data-grabbing ads and trackers”—an approach that also helps ensure a user’s every move isn’t tracked across the web.
On the rise
The number of Brave’s verified content creators also appears to be on the rise. Over 289,000 YouTubers are now involved with the Brave initiative, along with 47,000 websites, 55,000 Twitter accounts and 40,500 Twitch profiles. According to Brave, its service provides a crucial revenue stream to publishers, some of whom are being driven out of business because of the unfair levels of commission charged on revenues by major social networking sites.
Reflecting on the uptick in users, Brave’s head of marketing Des Martin tweeted: “What other companies added 1M+ users in the middle of a pandemic? HouseParty, Zoom, Slack .. any others?”
A challenging time
The faster browsing speeds offered by Brave come at a time when internet providers have been overwhelmed by levels of demand linked to the COVID-19 pandemic requiring people to telework, and then entertain themselves at home. According to Broadband Now, a survey of 200 U.S. cities shows 44% have seen network speeds slow down in recent weeks as usage skyrockets.
The popularity of video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video hasn’t helped matters either. The European Commission recently pushed Netflix into temporarily deactivating high definition streaming in Europe, so bandwidth could be preserved. YouTube followed suit.
A Brave fight
As well as offering an alternative to Google-owned Chrome, Brave has been publicly challenging the tech giant on its data practices.
Last month, Brave filed a formal complaint against Google—accusing it of violating General Data Protection Regulation, which is in force across the European Union.
GDPR states that organizations storing personal data must only use it for the purpose it was collected for, but Brave alleges that a “free for all” at Google means personal data is being reused across its vast range of businesses and products.
“Google has personal data about everyone,” said Dr. Johnny Ryan, Brave’s chief policy and industry relations officer. “It collects this from products like YouTube and Gmail, and many other Google products that operate behind the scenes across the internet. But merely having everyone’s personal data does not mean Google is allowed to use that data across its entire business, for whatever purposes it wants.”
Google has emphatically denied the allegations, saying that they “don’t stand up to serious scrutiny.”
Brave is hoping that the legal fight will stop Google opting users into all of its products, and cause the company to lose a “vast, unlawful data advantage.” If successful, Brave also believes that this could result in Google effectively being broken up, as customers would have the ability to withdraw their consent and “decide what specific parts of Google’s business they want to reward with their data.”
Of course, the publicity Brave’s getting because of the suit doesn’t hurt either.