By Justin Connell,
Brave’s open-source internet browser, which caused consternation among some newspaper publishers who threatened to sue the company, wants to simplify Bitcoin and use it to power the future internet. It plans to do this by paying publishers with bitcoin from those who spend time on their sites.
The Brave browser has ad-blocking technology built in and claims to offer more privacy and better speed and performance than traditional browsers. The startup, which is still in beta, strives to do this using Zero-knowledge proofs, methods by which bitcoin microtransactions can be made and confirmed while keeping both user identity and browsing history private.
Intersection of Zero-Knowledge Proofs and Bitcoin
“It’s early days for zero-knowledge systems in cryptocurrency,” says Brave CEO Brendan Eich. “In Bitcoin, you have frictionless payments, no intermediary, no controlling custodian, and, with zero-knowledge proofs, anonymity.”
A Zero-knowledge proof or Zero-knowledge protocol (ZKP) is a cryptographic method wherein the identity of the proof bearer is separated from the authenticity or truth of the proof – the cryptographic proof requires no extra trust or knowledge to be verified by its recipient. The system used by Brave is based on Anonize.
Because Bitcoin runs on a public ledger, which allows third parties to analyze and potentially triangulate and determine identities, ensuring that micropayments are in fact anonymous is not so straightforward.
“Brave will use a bitcoin payments rail, called Brave Ledger, but we are trying to use Bitcoin without being all about Bitcoin,” Mr. Eich, whose firm has raised approximately $7 million, tells Bitcoin.com.
“Some thought that Brave would lead to your grandma knowing about Bitcoin,” Mr. Eich says. “But I don’t think that needs to be the case for Brave or Bitcoin to succeed. In fact, I feel the opposite is true.”
“Blocking Ads, Helping Publishers”
Brave released its payment system in its beta version 0.11.6 in September. “For the first time in browser history, people can now seamlessly reward the sites whose content they value and wish to support while remaining anonymous and untracked,” reported Bitcoin.com.
“The simplest thing we are doing with bitcoin is helping publishers receive automated donations based on visits to their site,” explains Mr. Eich, “without Brave users have to worry ‘Do I want to support this site or that site?’”
This process is carried out on a user’s native device as opposed to the server side. “We blind ourselves and all others to that donation list. Users hold custody of their funds, controlling the funds essentially through a wallet key for a multi-signature wallet. No one sees the list of websites, but bitcoin flows in aggregate to publishers.”
He adds: “This is only made possible thanks to the robustness of Bitcoin, and of course the ability to send without an intermediary.”
Currently, third party ads entail a website hosting intensive third-party scripts to keep track of users and try to match the best ad for a given space on the page with the user. Trackers also try to ensure that the right people get debited and credited advertising funds. This process poses a risk in terms of data. “There is a general concern about fraud with third-party ads,” says Mr. Eich. Brave, which has partnered with Coinbase, Bitgo and Private Internet Access, and believes Bitcoin can solve this problem.
“The value of Bitcoin is really under the hood, but yet we couldn’t do this without Bitcoin, and that’s one of the ironies,” says Mr. Eich, who has demonstrated that Brave speeds up the load time of websites reliant on bulky third party advertising scripts by 3-6x. “We can solve problems like publisher revenue and increased browser data security, as well as protection from malware without having to get people to become Bitcoin proficient.”