Basic Attention Token (BAT) is "semi-centralized", admits founder

25 Nov, 2018
by David Robb
Basic Attention Token (BAT) is semi-centralized, admits founder

The founder of web browser Brave, and its accompanying crypto token BAT, has recently shed light on just how decentralized they are. In an interview with TheNextWeb, Brendan Eich admits that the eco-system is "semi-centralized".

Eich was formerly the CEO of Mozilla, the company behind Firefox. His newest browser was developed as solution to the problem of how to appropriately monetize content online, balancing interests of creators as well as consumers. Users of Brave are rewarded in BAT for engaging with ads, and they can use these crypto tokens to tip content creators directly from within the browser itself. This goes some way towards solving the growing problem of people using ad-blocker software, which cuts off a vital revenue stream for media outlets and the creators who contribute to them.

Read more: Basic Attention Token announced on Coinbase Pro

Some controversy arose over Brave's free BAT giveaways from their User Growth Pool (UGP). BAT tokens are distributed to users of Brave on a semi-regular basis, in order to encourage more engagement. These can then be used to tip, or be traded on crypto exchanges. It emerged that Brave's developers had an option to confiscate these tokens from holders, if they weren't used within 90 days.

Eich claims that this was just a necessary security measure, in order to prevent bots or fraudulent users from taking advantage of the grants. He said that Brave doesn't "hand out free BAT when someone is trying to game this system, say by running many instances of Brave in a cloud hosting service so that they can try to claim a bunch of grants without actually using the browser". This has apparently already been an issue.

Eich insisted that the power to reclaim BAT only applies to tokens that are in an internal wallet that is managed by the Brave browser, and claimed that there was "nothing we can do to touch your BAT. BAT in a wallet you control cannot be ‘confiscated.’" 

This system requires Brave to carry out regular "off-chain analysis" and use so-called "Secure Remote Attestation" technology to check that tokens are being distributed to real human users. Eich admits that this kind of third-party intervention does make his eco-system "semi-centralized". Although explanation makes sense and the project seems worthwhile, it's questionable whether it was appropriate for it to be carried out on the blockchain.

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