'Brave' new browser to block bad ads, pay customers

A new browser is offering an unconventional solution to online advertising. It plans on blocking ads by default at the start and then slowly allowing non-disruptive ads back onto sites, cutting in publishers and customers.

Julie Jacobson/AP/File
In this Jan. 7, 2014, file photo, Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer speaks during the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some users point to Yahoo! as one of the reasons ad blockers are necessary.

As ad blockers threaten the viability of online advertising, there may be a “brave” new browser-based solution.

Brendan Eich, former CEO of Mozilla Corporation and creator of JavaScript, is launching a new startup – Brave, a browser with a less-than-intuitive solution: block ads by default. The browser will automatically block disruptive ads on the Web and replace them with safer, less intrusive ones. The browser will also reward users with a cut of the advertising profits and a choice to support their favorite websites.

As Mr. Eich explained Brave to MediaPost, he was careful to point out that it was not just a new ad blocker. Instead, the CEO of the startup explained the main goal of the browser was to give users control over their advertising experience and more control over how they support their favorite websites.

Although Eich was clear on the distinction between Brave and ad blockers, it is unclear how open-minded publishers and websites will be, especially as Brave descends on the online advertising industry in the midst of its crackdown on ad blocking.

"We need to clean the swimming pool," Brendan Eich told Business Insider in an interview. "Chlorinate the pool. Only by doing that can we build a better ad model for publishers as well as users."

Brave’s solution will launch in the form of a new browser, competing with the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, with ad-blocking technology included, which will make it faster and safer, according to Business Insider. 

The browser will focus on blocking trackers, which gather data on users, and ads that disrupt user experience. In their place, the browser replaces those ads with safe ads that don’t track user data or contain malware.

“So we reduce the total number of ads experienced by the user and increase the quality and relevance, while simultaneously blocking trackers that follow your activity across sites,” Brave says in its FAQ section.

The ads displayed by Brave are chosen based on browser data – which is not shared with advertisers – and tags controlled by users. Brave does not utilize the “Acceptable Ads model” and instead blocks/replaces all ads that violate their guidelines and favors an ad and flat fee based business model. The revenue generated is split between publishers (55 percent), Brave (15 percent), suppliers (15 percent), and the customer (10 to 15 percent), according to Business Insider.

The amount customers receive will not be much, but it will give them a sense of being a part of the economic process behind the ads, Eich told MediaPostThe business model is also designed to give users more control and, in a way, make micropayments to websites they use most.

In contrast, Adblock Plus, a program that allows users to block unwanted advertisements, is currently the most popular browser extension. It has received over 300 million downloads, according to the site and the chagrin of publishers. The extension works by letting users set up filter lists.

“Filter lists are essentially an extensive set of rules that tell Adblock Plus which elements of a website to block,” the Adblock Plus webpage explains. 

Adblock does allow some adverts through via their Acceptable Ads list, which is also based on criteria established by their community. Large entities that profit from being on Acceptable Ads list have to pay, but for small, niche entities the service is free.

Recently, some sites, such as Forbes, have implemented “adwalls” or a webpage that loads before the website and checks to see if the user is using an ad block extension. If the user is, the website requests they turn it off before allowing access to the website. The industry as a whole has been more vocal as well.

Ben Williams, the operations and communication manager at Adblock Plus, was recently disinvited from US Interactive Advertising Bureau's big conference, despite previously attending and already having paid for his registration. The IAB is where the online-advertising industry does much of its networking and brainstorming.

Later, at an IAB event, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, reiterated her disdain for ad blocking.

“If I have friends or family members asking if they should install them, I tell them ‘please don’t because I think that your experience on the Web will get worse’,” Ms. Mayer said. “I personally think it’s a mistake to install ad blockers.”

Many disgruntled users point to Yahoo! as an example for why ad blockers and other services like Brave's are necessary, according to The New York Times. In 2015, Yahoo!'s ad network was used by hackers to send malware to online visitors for nearly a week before being detected.

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