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May 07
2020
Highlights: Binance x Brave AMA

In a special AMA for the blockchain community, our CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) met remotely met with Brendan Eich, the CEO and co-founder of Brave Software, the makers of the privacy-focused Brave browser. Brendan is known as the creator of the JavaScript programming language and the co-founder of Mozilla, before becoming Brave's CEO. The two blockchain industry leaders discussed their partnership and shared vision of cooperation.

This transcript has been edited for clarity. You can watch the recording of the live AMA on Youtube.

 

On how Brave and BAT works

CZ: Do you want to introduce how the BAT token works? Because I'm not sure if everybody understands it. How does it work with the publishers, advertisers, users, etc.?

Brendan: So one way to understand this is to think about when you browse without Brave, or without good tracking protection, or ad-blocking extension. You're being measured, tracked, surveilled. You're being spied on. And that [data] is worth money, because people in advertising work for the brands that make all the products, goods, and services. As a user, you don't get any of that money. All you get are the ads and the tracking, and maybe you buy the product, maybe you don't. 

Brave turns that whole model on its head. We block all the tracking by blocking those scripts, and then we allow you to choose to participate. A clean ad model, a clean donation model that's anonymous and private by default, and it's using the Basic Attention Token (BAT) as a unit of account for your attention. And as we're trying to have a fair system for measuring impressions or other units of attention, we ended up using cryptocurrencies. We created the Basic Attention Token in 2017. 

CZ: Brave has almost 14 [million users] now. 

Brendan: It's 13.8 million users at the end of April. 

CZ: That's probably the most active user base in crypto, to be honest. 

Brendan: It is big, but some of them are new to crypto, so we're trying to get them to become used to it. One of the best things you can do is give them BAT instead of making them buy it or to try to risk some of their own money. They can just get it by participating in Brave Rewards. The number of users participating in this reward system is represented by about 1.7 million active wallets in the last 30 days.

CZ: So, that means that less than 20% of the brave users were actually using crypto for their reward system, right? 

Brendan: That's true right now. When we first released it on desktop, it was 40% of the desktop browser share. And as we added it to mobile, we found that people were less willing to use it, but we are working on making it more attractive to use by making it more convenient and also making it reward the user more. That involves incentivizing users to turn it on and to participate fully. 

CZ: That's actually very useful and very important when it comes to entering the industry. You were able to reach out to 10 to 12 million non-crypto users.

 

On the integration of Binance Widget into Brave browser

CZ: I've always viewed wallets as the browser for the blockchain space. And now, we have a browser as well. How do you see the integration [playing out]? 

Brendan: I think what we've done with the Binance trading widget is a good example. Browsers tend to absorb things from other protocols or other apps. The browser is like the universal app. That means if you want to use a wallet app, that's great. You can do it on a mobile, and it might be the right tool for the job. But what if you're in the browser? What's better: having to switch to a wallet app, or staying in the browser and having the composition of crypto wallets and browsers available to you?

CZ: Before I came across the Brave browser, I was always thinking the wallet is the browser for the blockchain space, and now we're integrating the two, which is extremely powerful. 

Brendan: Now we can see with crypto and Brave, that you can not only put payments into the web protocols or the webpages, but you can also put them in the browser. You can support creators without them having to change their webpages. 

 

On the next steps for Binance-Brave partnership

CZ: In this ecosystem, how do you see Binance helping? What other things can we do to help? 

Brendan: When you buy at Amazon, they have your credit card. I also happen to use Apple iTunes. They have my credit card; I have an Apple credit card now. But what about all the websites I go to? I don't want to give them all my credit card [information] or sign up with them. I don't want to risk my credit card number being stolen or something bad happening. I'd rather just have a way of paying through the browser anonymously. And that's where Brave makes things possible. We're trying to bring crypto both to the masses and to creators on the web so that everybody can make more money and create better web content.

We find greater efficiency through crypto. We find the ability to go direct, and this direct relationship is super important. Binance can be helpful for any situation where you want to pay somebody. They only have to get a Binance account, and then you can send money to them directly on Binance. And that kind of power is hard to do with cash. 

 

On how blockchain revolutionizes ads

CZ: So the [BAT] model is: There's an advertiser that will pay both the publisher and end-user as rewards for viewing their ads or displaying or viewing the ads. And when the user wants to pay a publisher, they can also pay. Those are the two main use cases as far as I understand, right? 

Brendan: We actually split the ads into sub-categories. So one user gets the ad and gets 70% of the revenue, and that by default goes back to their creators. They can tip it, or they can set up monthly contributions, or there's a certain amount they can set the budget. It takes time to get publishers ready for this. That's publisher ads. The publisher makes 70%, the user makes 15%, so we always pay the owner of the ad space 70%, and we always pay the user at least what Brave makes. So our fees are fixed. 

If you look at how online advertising works now, there's a lot of non-transparency and hiding of how much you're actually taking. You're basically lying to your poor publishers, and they're getting underpaid. The Guardian, the UK newspaper, bought out all its (online) ad space for a period of time. They found that when they put 1 British pound in, they only got 30 pence paid net, so 70 pence were taken out by the ad tech middleman. 

I guess now cryptocurrency solves this problem to a large degree. One of the great benefits of blockchain is that you get the ability to see counterparties more clearly. You can see fewer degrees of indirection or no indirection, and you can go directly on-chain.

 

On how Brave browser blocks ads and protects your privacy compared to competitors

Brendan: We don't block all ads intentionally. If you have a great site, [like] a wildlife charity, and you want to promote some good cause with a picture. You could call it an ad, but it is not tracking you. We don't block that now. But if it starts using tracking infrastructure, we will block it. So part of our work is to make the blocking very efficient.

We also work on the ad system, which involves opt-in machine learning in the browser. So when people think about machine learning, they sometimes think you need huge cloud computers. We simply personalize that into the browser as something you can choose to turn on.

We don't send your data out to our servers or anybody else's. Instead, we bring the catalog of all offers for a given region to you, and then the machine learning picks the best one at the right time. You can adjust the frequency. You can give it a thumbs down. And that trains machine learning. So it's a more transparent, simple system, but it's actually competitive, and we're working to make it even better because it turns out in ad tech, a lot of the machine learning is, is even sillier, less efficient.

CZ: Once you dive into it, there's a lot of complexity behind the simple user interface. Based on what you described, I'm actually quite scared to use any other browser.

Brave was the only browser that didn't send out any signals to other servers. Other browsers sent a lot of data. It turns out Google, as you might expect because they are a search and advertising business, have instrumented Chrome and they have made Chrome tell them about your navigation if you're signed into a Google account. It's on because I think it's important to their business. I understand why they do it. 

Safari is better. Apple makes a really good effort. I think Apple not owning an advertising business matters. Firefox is better, but they chat on a few servers.

 

Questions to CZ and Brendan

Do you have a timeline for the Binance widget on the mobile version of Brave? 

Brendan: We're working on that, [at the same time], we're working on making the desktop version even better. And then when we get to mobile, I think it'll be later this year, it'll be great.

Can I earn BNB from the Brave browser in the future?

CZ: I think in addition to BNB, we actually also want to sponsor BUSD. For a lot of the payments related stuff, people prefer a stablecoin because mentally that's more stable, especially for shop owners when their expenses are covered in fiat currencies.

Could shopping-related searches include prices in crypto & a 'buy' option via Binance?

Brendan: Yes, and I think this is a real area of innovation that Brave and Binance can work on. All the e-commerce that you do with Amazon, you could lift out of the Amazon store and marketplace and put into the browser and make universal for many, many other sites if they would just have a way of coming and getting paid. So that's signing up with Binance. It's making sure that they're verified with us so we can let people pay them directly through the browser. That seems like a huge opportunity. 

CZ: But that would require some kind of integration on Amazon's part. Which will be hard enough?

Brendan: If every other store that competed with Amazon, like Overstock, had to do the same work like Amazon, then that would be difficult. If Brave instead can do this for the site and for the user, so that's how we do the tipping on Twitter. Right now, we don't have a deal with Twitter. We just let the people who use Twitter sign up with us, and then they can get tipped directly through the browser.

What are the safety measures taken to ensure crypto trading to be SAFU on the Brave browser using the Binance widget? 

Brendan: We use auth API. So we have proper authenticated encryption, protecting the connection to Binance.

That's the only way that Binance is communicated with as if you interact with the widget and log in. We also have that code in native code, not in JavaScript, not in the new tab page, uh, HTML or, or other parts of the page that could be attacked more easily. We have them in native code that's protected.

By using native code and working in a higher level of privilege with very carefully audited code, we can make sure that nothing in the web content, nothing in the new tab page, or something that could get us a new tab page can attack the widget. And we block all the tracking and all the malware and ransomware. 

CZ: I would also add, just using the widget stops a very common phishing attack. There's a very easy way to get you to Binance, and you know, you're dealing with Binance directly from the browser.

So you're not worried about phishing or fake websites. We see a lot of people getting phished. 

I always tell people not to use a link in your email, use a bookmark or a copy of the URL. Now we have the widget right there on the dedicated user interface.