On Monday (3 September 2018), Brendan Eich, co-founder and CEO of Brave Software explained on Twitter why the Brave web browser uses the Basic Attention Token (BAT) instead of Bitcoin (BTC) for rewarding publishers.
As covered by CryptoGlobe, Eich recently reported that Brave had over four million active monthly users:
Latest @Brave stats: 4M users (MAU), 21K verified channels, 26K publisher accounts.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 2, 2018
We will step on gas w/ brave-core + BAT on mobile this fall, get past 5M easily by EOY, >= 12M next, adding BAT ad deals to token grants, making good on the promise of @attentiontoken economics.
When you use the Brave web browser, by default, it blocks ads, trackers, and "fingerprinting" -- which is great for users, but obviously hurts publishers because it deprives them of ad revenue. However, users can choose to anonymously support their favorite websites using a mechanism called "Brave Payments." This is how the FAQ section on the Brave website explains this feature:
"Brave Payments is a system that allows you to anonymously donate to content producers that you like. All you need to do is create a BAT wallet and add an amount. Then, when you visit websites, Brave Payments automatically distributes microdonations based on the time you devote. You can customize your list of favorite websites. You can even 'pin' specific sites to receive a certain amount every month. It’s like becoming a patron."
So, what made Brave's CEO talk about BTC and BAT on a U.S. public holiday (Labor Day)?
It all started when Francis Pouliot, a Bitcoin maximalist, suggested that Brave Software had made a mistake by using the Basic Attention Token instead of just using Bitcoin.
Eich replied that the Brave browser (which got launched in 2016) had initially used Bitcoin:
I don't respond to drive-bys who can't even be bothered to have used Brave in 2016 or first 3 quarters of 2017, or to have read our blog to learn that we actually built Brave Payments on bitcoin first, from fall 2016 to fall 2017, and discover the problems we had.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 3, 2018
Pouliot then recommended to Eich to use Bitcoin and the Lightning Network for its micro-payments in order to make the Brave browser future-proof:
A great idea would be for @brave (and yourself) to be pionneers in the Lightning Network and implement. It might actually what takes Lightning mainstream first. You would be first mover in the greatest tech innovation since Bitcoin itself. Brave would be future proof.— Francis Pouliot ⚡️ (@francispouliot_) September 3, 2018
Eich replied that most publishers are not really interested in getting paid in bitcoin:
How many among our over 20K and growing publishers, including big names we've announced and others have noted on Twitter via their contributions going through, do you dream are ready and willing to be paid in bitcoin -- never mind be an LN endpoint?— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 3, 2018
Eich then gave some of the reasons why his company had decided to abandon the idea of using Bitcoin for payments in Q4 2017:
We used bitcoin, it was terribly slow and expensive to buy in moderate amounts. We also could not give users grants of it, because no bitcoin holder was willing to give us a big pool of coins to hand out. You might think those are not bitcoin problems. They were for our users.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 3, 2018
And bitcoin slowness and fees on small buys. We had 60+ hour conf times ane $4.50 fees in users who naively bought $5 in bitcoin each month, last year. But I am sure it was the fault of those users, ane not “friction”.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 4, 2018
From 2016 fall for over a year, we tried forcing users and publishers to become bitcoin speculators, but that failed miserably both due to inherent problems with bitcoin, and with the fact that most publishers want fiat not bitcoin.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 3, 2018
Eich noted that, in general, businesses (especially advertisers and publishers) were not interested in buying, holding, or selling crypto (because crypto is still "bleeding edge stuff"), and that is why they "do not require any publisher to accept crypto of any kind"; instead, they "partner with Uphold for exchange from and to many fiats and cryptos."
He did, however, add that they are working on a "crypto out" wallet:
Yes, as noted: most publishers want fiat. We will add crypto out wallet which is why we have been talking to @civickey for separate KYC; there are other obligations on top (AML, sanction list) so no free lunch.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 4, 2018
With regard to the question of Bitcoin vs Ethereum, he said that they had decided for the time being to stay with the Ethereum platform (BAT is an ERC-20 token):
We saw pre-segwit Bitcoin get very slow and costly through much of 2017, but then CryptoKitties melted Ethereum, while Bitcoin with segwit got better later in year. Neither is fast enough under load for future needs. Scaling and L2 hopes spring eternal.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 4, 2018
When asked why not use the Lighning Network for scalable, instant Bitcoin transactions, Eich replied that he was not ruling out this option at some point in future:
We'll adopt LN if it helps. See elsewhere where we got past serious growth limits on publisher and user sides by moving off Bitcoin. If only most publishers wanted it and even had LN endpoints! Maybe they will, but not soon.— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 4, 2018
Eich added they are also keeping their eyes on EOS:
EOS is interesting, in spite of governance birthpain. Look, this should not be religion, with shaming/damning language (yet it is); it should be engineering. EOS is too new for us to jump on, we're in market already. But we keep our eyes on EOS and all new stuff, not just LN. Ta!— BrendanEich (@BrendanEich) September 4, 2018
Finally, it is worth remembering that on 13 July 2018, Coinbase announced that it was exploring the idea of supporting the Basic Attention Token (BAT) on its trading platforms.