Brave’s founder, Brendan Eich, previously led Mozilla and watched what the surveillance economy was doing to the internet. As web users will tell you, looking at ads isn’t really the problem; it’s that the ads look back.
The plan for Brave was to break that model by delivering ads directly to internet users and then rewarding them for their attention when they chose to give it. Thus, the Basic Attention Token (BAT) was born amid the initial coin offering (ICO) boom of 2017. Brave’s modest (for the time) $35 million token sale sold out in seconds.
Crypto loves a troublemaker. When the Brave browser debuted in 2016, the Newspaper Association of America(NAA) sent it a cease and desist letter:
“You are hereby notified that Brave’s plan to replace our clients’ paid advertising content with its own advertising violates the law, and the undersigned publishers intend to fully enforce their rights.”
This post is part of the CoinDesk 50, an annual selection of the most innovative and consequential projects in the blockchain industry. See the full list here.
“Out of all ‘utility’ tokens on Ethereum, BAT is one of the few that backs a finished product – the Brave browser”, Lucas Nuzzi of Coin Metrics told CoinDesk in an email.
Delivering on its promise to launch a new ad platform in April 2019 seems to have made a difference. Shortly thereafter, venture capitalists gave Brave a fresh $30 million to keep going. But consumer opt-ins to the ad network have not exploded, perhaps because the returns are small and users have to go through Uphold to get paid. It’s a lot of friction.
“The number of addresses with a balance greater than 0, which is seen by many as a proxy for adoption, is still somewhat flat”, Nuzzi said. That figure has been hovering around 100,000 since the launch of Brave ads last April, with only a slow, gradual increase, according to Coin Metrics data.
Users may not think the rewards have proven to be worth the trouble. Still, the long-tail approach may be a winning, if unsexy, strategy for Brave’s long-term relevance.
Regardless, the ad blocking it launched with still works great.
The FBI Is Now Reaching Out to QuadrigaCX Victims
The FBI has reportedly been investigating Quadriga since March 2019, and it announced in June it was looking for victims of the exchange. At the time, the agency included a questionnaire for individuals to fill out.
According to an email sent to multiple users of the exchange and shared with CoinDesk, Valerie Gauthier, a victim specialist with the FBI, has been reaching out to former users of the exchange to alert them of a new portal containing information about the case, confirming that the investigation continues.
“A criminal investigation can be a lengthy undertaking, and, for several reasons, we cannot tell you about its progress at its time,” Gauthier wrote.
Victims can contact the FBI at email@example.com, though “inquiries about the status of the case will not be addressed,” she wrote.
Multiple email recipients told CoinDesk they filled out the questionnaire last year, while at least one user who did not receive an email said they did not fill out the form.
The FBI is one of at least four national investigative agencies looking into Quadriga, along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The other two agencies have not been publicly disclosed, though an Australian investigative agency appears to be one of the groups.
Separately, Roger Knox, the founder and operator of Swiss asset management firm Wintercap, formerly known as Silverton, pled guilty to securities fraud before a Boston judge on Monday.
Knox allegedly facilitated market manipulation schemes, including pump-and-dumps on microcap securities, acquiring some $164 million as a result.
Knox was also a client of Michael Gastauer, the operator of WB21, a payment processor holding some $9.2 million in Quadriga’s funds in a combination of U.S. and Canadian dollars, according to Modern Consensus senior editor Amy Castor. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has previously filed a complaint against Gastuer and Knox together, alleging Knox coordinated his scheme with Gastauer.