Brave is a privacy-focused browser that aims to prevent its users from being tracked online. That largely means preventing advertisers from tracking you, which disrupts the main way many websites make money. Brave's makers aren't just interested in the privacy side of the equation, however. One of their goals is to fundamentally change the way websites make money, using the BAT (Basic Attention Token) cryptocurrency, based on the Ethereum blockchain. News and information sites like this one—and their readers—particularly stand to benefit from the concept. Will it catch on? It's hard to say, but shifting the power (and some of the money involved) into the hands of users is an attractive idea.
What Is Brave?
Brave, just like Chrome, Edge, Opera, and Vivaldi, is based on Google's open-source Chromium browser code, so it's compatible, fast, and familiar. It sports some unique features, too: Ad blocking and web tracking protection are built in, its private browsing mode can hide your traffic using Tor, it includes a built-in BitTorrent utility, and it offers a cryptocurrency wallet.
The BAT system will only take off if lots of sites take advantage of what it offers: ad-free content support and letting the users earn by giving their attention to a site's advertisements. Brave claims that over 500,000 content creators and publishers participate in the program. The company also makes a compelling case that most of the ad money on the web is going to Google and Facebook these days, rather than to the actual content publishers.
How Do I Earn Cryptocurrency Using Brave?
The premise is simple: If you endure viewing Brave Ads (which are push notifications, rather than on-page display ads), you can earn a fractional smidge of BAT. Conversely, if you want to get past a site's paywall and view it ad-free, you contribute a bit of BAT to the site.
After using the browser for a couple hours, I found I had earned 7 cents, so while it's not something to quit your day job for, extrapolating that to several hours per day could help stuff your digital piggybank. In any case, the intention of the cryptocurrency is to fund information sites, rather than to earn you a living. Find out how to set all this up below.
Brave has been in the tech news of late for both good and bad reasons. First, the good: comedian, podcaster, and TV personality Joe Rogan gave the browser a boost, saying he prefers it along with the DuckDuckGo search engine compared with Google's offerings. "They're not looking in your underwear. They're not checking under your fingernails," said Rogan.
On the downside, a Twitter user found that if you type certain cryptocurrency site addresses in, the URL was changed to one that provided Brave with an affiliate link. Though this doesn't differ greatly from what Chrome and other browsers do, Brave CEO Brendan Eich stated "The autocomplete default was inspired by search query clientid attribution that all browsers do, but unlike keyword queries, a typed-in URL should go to the domain named, without any additions. Sorry for this mistake—we are clearly not perfect, but we correct course quickly." This seems like an issue that, while providing one Twitter user with a "gotcha" moment, isn't significant for most users, and it doesn't impact privacy—or your ability to earn BAT cryptocurrency and fix the ad mess on webpages.
Download and Install the Brave Browser
You get it from Brave.com. Installers are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux (Debian 9+, Ubuntu 14.04+ and Mint 17+ distros). It's a tiny download that in turn downloads and installs the browser software, similar to the way other Chromium browsers do. On the disk, the browser takes up 495MB on installation; not exactly lithe, but Chrome does the same.
Get Acquainted with Brave
There's a welcome slideshow that takes you through importing bookmarks, ad blocking, setting search engine (DuckDuckGo is recommended, as a privacy-protecting option), and Brave Rewards. That last one will be our focus, as that's where the Basic Attention Token crypto usage comes in.
Enabling rewards is accomplished with a simple click of a button. You're then ready to earn, buy, or spend BAT crypto. You have two basic options to enable or disable: Ads and Auto-Contribute. If you turn on the Ads switch, you will earn BAT by viewing ads on participating sites. If you turn on Auto-Contribute, participating sites you visit will receive BAT you've earned or bought.
Browse and Earn!
Notice the panel on the right of this browser home screen that says, "You're getting paid to view this background image." That's because it's a sponsored image, in this case from BlockFi.com. You'll see your BAT balance on your home page under Brave Rewards. Note that the ads that earn you BAT are not the standard webpage ads; you can still block those with Brave's ad blocker. They also don't track you the way the standard ads do and are less invasive.
Contribute to Sites
The red triangle at top right is key to the BAT rewards system: Note the blue check mark here; that means the site accepts BAT. After clicking that, you see the dropdown panel shown above. There you can add the site to your contributions, or remove it.
Tipping Is Allowed
Not only can you contribute to sites you view, but you can also tip individuals on Twitter, Reddit, and Github. This also requires verifying an Uphold account. Note the red triangle displays the blue check mark here, too.
Verify Your Wallet (Optional)
You can earn and contribute with BAT without signing up for anything. But if you want to cash in your BAT or contribute to your account with funds from other sources, you need to verify your wallet through Uphold, a highly rated digital currency broker. Uphold even offers a debit MasterCard that you can back with crypto.
As with most things online, you start by entering an email and password. Uphold also needs your country and state, in order to comply with local laws. Unfortunately, it's not licensed to trade crypto in New York, though it's in the process of getting approved. To complete the account creation, you need to enter your real name, birth date, and phone number. You also need to snap a photo of your ID and of your face; this sounds intrusive, but it's standard for crypto brokers, and you're not under any compulsion to even create an account.
Get Rewards from the TAP Network
Gift cards for Amazon, Walmart, Uber, and many more can be yours if you purchase them using your BAT balance in Brave. This also requires setting up a TAP account and connecting it with your verified Uphold account.
Set Up a Crypto Wallet
Slightly confusingly, this crypto wallet is completely separate from the BAT Rewards program. It simply lets you store crypto in the browser or connect hardware wallets from Ledger and Trezor. To create a wallet, you just need an email address and password. You'll be shown a secret phrase of many words, which you need to secure, say in a LastPass secure note. I only saw BAT and Ethereum in the wallet. I was able to deposit $5 worth of Ethereum into the wallet (0.0243ETH at the time) using the QR code on my Brave wallet. Unfortunately, I couldn't convert this into BAT, but I could use it on the web.
Back Up Your Wallet
Since rewards are tied to the installation of Brave on your device, you can obtain a recovery key for when you switch devices. Note that this backup is for your Brave Rewards wallet, not your separate crypto wallet we just discussed.
Cashing in Your Rewards
As mentioned earlier, the BAT cryptocurrency is intended to support websites you enjoy, rather than to make you rich. But you can exchange the BAT you earn for good-old US greenbacks using Uphold (assuming you live in a state where that crypto broker is authorized). It's a simple matter of clicking the Withdraw Funds icon in the right panel of the Brave Rewards page of Settings. After that, you can convert the BAT to another cryptocurrency, to US dollars, Argentine Pesos, or any of over two dozen other currencies, and have it transferred to your bank account.
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