TL;DR: In a recent take-down attempt of Brave co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich and the browser platform that aims to change the relationship between users and online surfing, lawyer and typographer Matthew Butterick claims both Eich and Brave are dishonest, lacking in real innovation, and ultimately freeloading.
Brave Co-founder & CEO Defends Against Charges of Dishonesty
“With Brave,” American attorney Matthew Butterick argued, “Mr. Eich wants to ruin my work—and that of every other creator who’s still propping up what’s left of the ad-free internet—so that he (and his venture investors) may profit. How? By layering ads over my ad-free website, while convincing web users that they’re part of some virtuous new economy.”
Butterick claims Brave is “deliberately making difficult” the ability to detect such ads as applied to on-purpose sites wishing to provide their readers an experience without being advertised to. Butterick believes “many publishers would like to do the same—I will make sure that every Brave visitor gets this as their landing page [(see featured image)]. Because they deserve to know that Brave is bullshit.”
The attorney and content creator insists online publishers already have at their disposal what Brave is essentially attempting to solve: if sites want to earn more revenue, they can opt-in for advertisements and their users will, in turn, decide if that’s a good decision. “Hey, I don’t like those ads either. Though I’m skeptical that blocking them does much good in the aggregate,” Butterick explained. He goes on to stress all browsers have ad-blocking plug-ins available, but “Brave is the first to declare total war on the ad economy of the web.”
Dishonest, Zero Innovation, Freeloading
“In short,” Brave CEO Brendan Eich responded to Butterick in a thread, “Butterick heard a canard about Brave, still spread by hostile ad-tech vendors: that we ‘replace’ ads on all sites. We do not! We would not do this on principle, but any sane business also would never take the legal risk.” The three main complaints Butterick has of Brave include no real innovation, active dishonesty, and a kind of bald freeloading. “Brave isn’t offering a new idea,” Butterick notes. “It’s just substituting one set of ads for another. It’s as if you were punching yourself in the face for days, and someone handed you a rock instead. If ads are the original sin of the web, Brave is not leading us to terra nova.”
With regard to not be an honest actor, Butterick believes Brave is using sleight-of-hand marketing hype. “With its nonsense about privacy and authenticity and integrity, Brave is holding out its ad system as some great ethical leap forward. It’s not. For publishers, it’s the same old shakedown—nice website you’ve got there, shame if something happened to its revenue—but run by Brave instead of Google or Facebook. Brave will only distribute your “fair share” if you capitulate to their terms.” The browser still collects the same data as its bigger competitors, he claims, though its ads do not — essentially a distinction without a difference.
“One of the sneakiest aspects of Brave is the implied connection between generating cryptocurrency while browsing and paying out that currency later. It sounds like web users are paying for what they read,” he maintained. More importantly to Butterick, “By substituting its own ads, Brave is also severing the connection between where the ads are seen and who gets the money for those ads. Brave converts the web into a clean substrate for delivering its own ads, without guaranteeing any payment to any publisher.”
Basically, Butterick stresses Eich and his business are tearing down one side of the internet economy to prop up its own, and for no other reason than to pay back Brave investors while pushing its token, BAT. Brave he reckons is easy to game, to use fraudulently, and will ultimately fail as a matter of economics.
To that final point, Eich acknowledged in response, “We cut out toxic tracking intermediaries implicitly defended by Butterick, while letting users opt into better private revenue models to support their top creators. If our fixed fees, <= the user gets, aren’t enough to sustain us, we’ll die. So far, we live and grow.”
Eich called Butterick’s claims “flat wrong on the facts about @Brave, as users and followers of Brave already know.” To the charge of layering ads, the Brave CEO explained, “We have not and would not ever place ads on pages without that site’s owner signing up with us and opting into that particular ad model. As a Juris Doctor, [Butterick] should know to check unreliable hearsay instead of rushing to condemn.”
As to the Brave browser collecting data allegation, “Brave Ads are matched privately using only browser-local data, confirmed via PrivacyPass-based anonymous protocol. We see no user data server side,” Eich shot back, further insisting “if [Butterick] read anything we ever wrote, he’d know all ad-matching is private against a downloaded catalog common among a large user set. Does he even know about blind signatures? Apparently not.”
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