Brave is the crypto-friendly browser that has become very popular in several communities thanks to its unique feature set: not only it's an excellent browser on its own - thanks to its Chromium underpinnings, effective AdBlock capabilities, and privacy focus that even includes a Tor client - but it also integrates the Basic Attention Token and its novel advertising model, and plays nice with digital wallets out of the box.
Thanks to this recipe Brave has experienced a surge in popularity, especially among privacy-conscious users, crypto-enthusiasts, and in general users who are looking for the convenience of Chrome without the burden of Google.
Starting in December 2017, Brave users have also benefitted from the "user growth pool" grants, where batches of BAT were distributed to new users on a first-come-first-served basis; this practice went on until early 2020 and proved to be effective at boosting the user base.
However, in the last months, Brave has been experiencing an increasing series of hiccups and missteps. Leaving aside incidents like the Tom Scott controversy and the Binance referral link , the browser itself has repeatedly experienced issues in several of its key features.
Failing BAT Rewards payout
Since the broader diffusion of the BAT reward system, there seems to be a recurring pattern where every other month the payout system suffers an issue, for which users are not receiving the tokens accrued with Rewards and Ads. Oftentimes this resolves on its own after some time (typically due to developers pushing a software fix via browser update), but it's concerning that the platform is not able to reliably handle payouts at this stage, after several years of development.
One particularly severe instance happened in May 2020, when a very large number of users did not receive any payout token due to a botched update that prevented the initialization of local wallets; this situation persisted for a few weeks until the developers were able to resolve it with an out-of-band emergency patch that updated the entire browser. Most crucially, users who uninstalled and reinstalled the browser (or the mobile app from their device) in an attempt to remedy the situation, ended up wiping the secure storage and losing their wallet (and all the tokens). Several months have passed and yet, from a cursory check of the Brave Community support forum, at any given time there are users in need of support as their payment didn't arrive in a timely fashion.
The confusing and cryptic Brave Advertisement program
The Advertisement program has a fairly straightforward design for users: opt-in, receive ads through system notifications, then (at the end of the month) obtain a certain amount of BAT depending on how many ads have been received. Users got acquainted with the concept of "receiving tokens for seeing ads" and embraced the program with enthusiasm, aiming at collecting BAT in exchange for their attention. However, since its inception, users have complained that the ad-serving mechanism is unpredictable and inconsistent, with some issues taking the lion share:
- the browser shows very few ads
- the maximum number of ads per hour set in the browser seems irrelevant
- sometimes ads stop showing completely for extended periods (days, weeks).
Some of these depend on a misunderstanding of the browser's functions: for instance, for quite some time it was not clear that "maximum number of ads per hour" (whose valid values range from 1 to 5) is only setting a ceiling, but does not provide any warranty that such limit will be reached in any hour of the day. Moreover, as the Ads Program is based on campaigns which in turn are country-specific, it is quite common for users to experience "ads starvation" just because all campaigns have run and no more ads are served until a new campaign begins. All of this is invisible to end-users, who are left hanging on and wondering if something is broken as the browser shows no ads for days and sometimes weeks. On top of that, each campaign has a pool of tokens, so it will run until exhaustion for a seemingly arbitrary period.
All of this has cast a shadow of unreliability over the Ads program, which also reflects in a constant stream of requests across the Brave Community support forum.
The big loss of BAT market value
Like many other cryptocurrencies, BAT has suffered a significant devaluation during the Covid-19 pandemic. This has had a direct impact on Brave users' wallets, which show both the amount of BAT and the converted equivalent in US Dollars. Many users have turned to the support forum as their wallet value kept depreciating, only to find out it was just related to market fluctuation. While this would not come as a surprise to someone familiar with cryptocurrencies, most Brave users seemed to lack awareness and expressed genuine frustration for what they perceived as an ununderstandable loss of value.
The end of the gravy train
The Brave browser has been, for quite a long time, rewarding Ads in a pretty consistent manner, where each ad would earn the user 0.05 BAT. Albeit a small amount, that could build up to some interesting bottom line at the end of a good month after factoring in the potential number of ads per hour (that is, assuming the Ads system would not starve or stop functioning as described above).
Starting from late August 2020 however, the value of each impression has been reduced first to 0.025 and then to 0.01 BAT - meaning that each ad is now paying only 20% of what it used to be.
This change happened silently and unannounced and was noticed only because worried users started raising the question to the Support forum. No official communication was made, and no message was published - directly or indirectly - to the user base. Whatever the reason, it was extremely disappointing to see users have been left in the dark about such a significant change. This, compounded with the loss of BAT market value, has impacted the value of the whole Advertisement Program and has sent waves of anxiety across the Brave users' community.
What is left of the Brave Browser proposition?
Despite a very promising start and an enthralling feature set, right now Brave is affected by several persistent issues including - but not limited to - lack of payment reliability, inconsistent delivery from the Advertisement program, strong devaluation of the BAT token and a dramatic loss of value-per-impression.
Because of all the above, as of today, it is legitimate for a Brave user to reconsider his options and decide if this browser is still worth the effort: the latest changes, in particular, have reduced the value that Brave can offer for the user attention and commitment (especially in terms of economic return per time invested) down to an all-time low.
Do you think the Brave Browser is still worth the effort? Share your opinion in the comments below.
(Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels)