Over the past few years, Big Tech has become increasingly politicized, as evidenced by their denying access to their services for certain audiences, specifically right-wing (particularly the ever-dreaded alt-right) and other undesirable users & companies. There are countless examples of this, some recent and notable ones being the banning of Gavin McInnes, Laura Loomer, Tommy Robinson, Owen Benjamin from platforms such as YouTube and Twitter.
Many believe that Big Tech is stifling Internet speech in order to influence the public discourse and, purposely or not, possibly even influencing the composition of political offices and elections. It’s apparent that Big Tech has overwhelmingly chosen to align with the left. (As a telling example, note Eric Schmidt’s advisory position on Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign in 2016).
Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Discord have denied certain users access to their platform based on their political affiliation and the expression thereof (even outside the realms of the platforms themselves), and the suspensions appear to only be accelerating.
While Twitter once used to frequently declare themselves a “free speech utility”, they are now actively censoring users in the name of preventing “hate speech”. In addition, Big Tech stifles any pushback to their diversity agenda; also internally within their businesses. A strong example of this is James Damore being fired by Google for his attempt at a debate on inclusion, discrimination and male/female characteristics, and was quickly disposed of on the grounds that he was spreading an “anti-diversity screed”.
While this presents a critical problem to a free and open Internet, it also presents an opportunity to rebuild the Internet economy for a more general, left-and-right inclusive market. There is an increasing demand for an escape from the big tech stranglehold and the markets for alternative platforms and solutions will only grow as the Big Tech censorship accelerates. In fact, there are already alt-tech offerings to be found across many sectors of the web:
True Alt-Tech is truly inclusionary and does not concern itself with ideology or political agendas, nor does it have its own agenda to control speech or ‘protect’ the Internet population from information of any kind. Alt-Tech is built on the concepts of accountability, responsibility and privacy and represents a return towards the values and traditions which the Internet was founded upon.
Most Brave aficionados will have read about the fundamentals of the BAT ecosystem, but what exactly does the full ad serving flow look like?
First, the advertiser becomes verified, similar to how a publisher or creator verifies (with the wallet) with the Brave platform.
On the server side, the ad inventory is flighted into a catalog of URLs.
The ad catalog is then pushed to devices (by language & region).
The catalog functions as a local ad server on the user’s device. This is a distinct difference from the conventional ad serving mechanism (whereby the browser requests ads from a 3rd party server for every page load, which comes with a severe performance tax and significant data leakage).
Local machine learning, intent signals and the browser corpus progressively train on the user’s attention as they browse (note, that this data does not leave the device; again a key difference to the prevailing ad model).
At the calculated opportune time, the platform activates a local auction layer and bid-matches options from the inventory catalog that fit the attention-experience context.
The winning ad is presented to the user in the form of a native push notification.
The native push notification contains a call to action, and is only presented when deemed viewable (based on the user’s attention baseline).
If the user engages with the notification, a new tab displays which either displays the landing page or a rich media creative (HTML5 embeddable).
Hopefully, the user converts on the opportunity (be that a transaction, lead generation, etc.)
Analytics will be measured using Anonize2 zero-knowledge proof protocols (which allow for the user to remain anonymous to the advertiser).
Analytics are presented in aggregate in dashboards within the advertiser interface, and supposedly, APIs will also be available.
Brave essentially brings a mini ad server to your browser.
The BAT platform will serve ads ‘run-of-browser’ (as opposed to run-of-network, whereby ad placements may appear on any pages within an ad network).
Ads are served against contextual and domain-level targets. (Verified publishers will eventually be able to serve ad inventory on their domains).
Brave are reportedly in talks with agencies and major names to to prove various use cases.
How is performance tracking different with Brave?
There are no tracking pixels nor are there any demand side platforms. Brave are building their own segments utilizing zero knowledge proof protocols. Zero-knowledge proofs essentially means that a party (e.g. Brave) proves to another (e.g. an advertiser) that a certain event has taken place (e.g. a conversion), without revealing any additional information (e.g. user data).
Brave will need to prove that this method is indeed workable and scalable. Zero-knowledge proofs are one of the most complicated, novel technologies used within the blockchain space (and explaining the full mechanics of this technology is well beyond the scope of this article).
Conversion tracking will be handled completely in-browser at first, and eventually, Brave seem to aim to bring the reporting on-chain for verifiable attribution.
How is reporting different with Brave?
Brave are developing Basic Attention Metrics, which will represent segments familiar and translatable to advertisers, sans the privacy concerns.
The promise is that Brave will serve much fewer ads, but better ads at more fitting moments. This has yet to be proven (and it needs to be said that early tests do not seem to show any ground-breaking relevance).
Publishers and advertisers both get dashboards with familiar forecasting and data visualization tools, but we have yet to see whether the blockchain model provides a feasible alternative for reporting.
Attention and engagement events are measured and reported using zero-knowledge proofs, allowing for event reporting and accounting without persistently tracking and profiling individual user IDs.
Publishers and advertisers will be able to view dashboards and generate reports of aggregated zero knowledge proof data, similar to how they currently view analytics.
Publishers and advertisers will also be able to verify the performance data against the on-chain settlement.
Assuming successful proof of concept, Brave represents an opportunity to reset the ad experience, or certainly significant portions of it. Brave have an opportunity to present content in a clean, almost reader-mode, and feature the ads separately to avoid repeat obstruction and annoying interruption.
Banner blindness is the result of decades of ignoring ads placed alongside content, and this is an issue with affects advertisers, publishers and users alike. With Brave, Ads won’t be placed in ad slots alongside content in the web page; or at least not in the early iterations.
Also, you won’t see 3-5 ads displayed within a single page load. Users will see fewer ads (no more than 10 a day, per user, most likely less than 5 per day). As the user browses, the local agent in the BAT platform will collect a mix of intent signals and data from the search, history and other client-side data that is accessible from the browser. Local machine learning algorithms will then match the right ad at the right time to the user, from a full inventory catalog of ads that is pushed to the device.
The ad will display as a call to action, from a push notification. If the user engages with the offer, they are directed to a new tab that can include an embedded video ad, full page HTML5 rich media creative, or a landing page.
Brave essentially brings an ad server onto your device, and updates the inventory catalog with regular intervals across all devices. This catalog removes the persistent network congestion that has become the norm with programmatic advertising, and avoids having to hit a user with so many ads per page load. This also improves privacy, as the catalog of available ad inventory is on the device, and does not have to be requested through any third parties. In the conventional, current ad model, each ad call and tracking request that is made to an ad server or 3rd party can leak data about the user to the cloud. (Brave blocks all such instances by default).
Brave basically cleans the slate by blocking 3rd party ads and tracking, cleaning the slate and offering a new ad model that respects user privacy and anonymity, while allowing publishers and advertisers to still monetize their content.
Brave are also doing something markedly different with their ad platform. Users who opt in to view BAT ads will receive BAT tokens for viewing ads. In other words, their attention has value which is encapsulated in the form of a token. The prevailing lumascape proves an entire industry has blown up off the value from user attention, while the users themselves get nothing. (Well, except for a chaotic experience, privacy invasion, surveillance, profiling to unknown parties behind the scenes, constant distractions & obstructions, slower connections, more data consumption, worse battery life, etc).
Braves give the user an opportunity to receive tokens for their attention, as it’s their attention. By cutting out every 3rd party passing costs through the middle, Brave are seeking to create an environment where users can receive BAT for their attention and publishers and advertisers can focus on their core business objectives.