AMA with Sampson

Welcome to the sixth post in our series of BAT Community-run AMAs.

The ongoing AMA series on Reddit is a seven-month-long event that features various guests from the Brave and BAT teams. The goal of the series is twofold: to give fans of the project an opportunity to interact directly with team members, and to give team members—especially those who operate largely behind the scenes—a chance to share their insights and offer the community a window into their work.

The most recent AMA took place on October 31st with Jonathan Sampson, Senior Developer Relations at Brave. Over the course of the AMA, Sampson fielded both pre-submitted and live questions from Redditors concerning a variety of topics, including the latest on Brave’s ad platform trials, Brave’s reception in the broader tech and web communities, and his favorite things about working at the company. He also gave advice on what keen developers can do to contribute to the BAT/Brave ecosystem, hinted at a few plans for upcoming projects (a Jonathan Sampson podcast, perhaps?) and geeked out recalling memories from the former MSN Gaming Zone and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.

Highlights can be found below, with a link to the full AMA at the bottom of this post.

The next AMA will take place on Wednesday, November 14th, and will feature Brian Brown, Brave’s Chief Business Officer.

For the full list of upcoming BAT Community AMAs through February 2019, see below.

u/AquaWookie: When does BAT payment for ads watched start/leave beta?

I see this as one of the single biggest motivators for moving crypto mass-adoption to the mainstream, you have the ability to start this—when?

Thanks for the question, Aqua! We're working through our second phase of user trials, which allow us to calibrate the system and train the machine-learning model which will reside in the browser moving forward. In this latest phase, several hundreds of volunteers have been generously contributing their time and attention to making this the best it can be. While I don't yet have a specific date for you, I can say that the effort is progressing nicely, and we couldn't be more excited to bring it to the general user base soon!

For now, please continue to accept the regular grants and support your favorite creators. 🙂

u/Scoobytwo: What kind of interest has there been from developers to build 3rd party apps or tools for the Brave/BAT ecosystem? PS - We may have actually crossed blades on Dark Forces 2 in the MSN gaming zone all those years ago, wow!

There has been a lot of great discussions with other developers. In fact, last night at an event in Seattle I was chatting with others who were interested in exploring BAT integration in their apps. We've had podcast apps reach out, and more too. We've stated from the beginning that BAT will outgrow the Brave browser, and that is definitely going to happen sooner than later with the amount of interest we see in the community.

Good to meet somebody who played on the Gaming Zone; that place was the original social network 😉 Had it not been for that game, it's unlikely that I would be involved in this industry today. I need to look up some of the devs who worked on that, and buy them lunch sometime 🙂 Did you ever get into modeling/map-making/cog-editing?

u/Kirkins: I read chrome extensions work on Brave but I also saw a repo for a Brave extension store. How will that work? Developers make sure their extension works on Brave and submit?

Chrome extensions have always worked in Brave to varying degrees. In the past, we have maintained a small curated list of supported extensions. With Brave Core, and our move to Chromium, we are able to support a lot more extensions. For now, users install these via the Chrome Web Store. You will notice, however, that we notify users when they are about to install an extension we haven't tested.

The minor messaging you see right now in the Chrome Web Store is just the tip of the iceberg. We're developing a very sophisticated system whereby large amounts of extensions can be tested more easily, and marked as trusted, untrusted, or somewhere in between. We have some researchers and developers working on this, and I'm eagerly looking forward to them getting to share more about their efforts. Follow official channels for those updates.

u/obrndk: As this is a real use case product the competitors are quite easy to identify and mass adoption could come quicker than most other crypto projects. If the main audience will start using Brave more and more, the adoption of BAT will follow inevitably. Is there any target set in place when Brave will actually surpass IE, Firefox, Chrome in terms of its users? And will this be the actual kick-start of the usage of BAT?

Great question. BAT growth is currently assisted by Brave growth; as more people use Brave, more people are presented with the opportunity to use BAT. With Brave having more than 10 million downloads on Android alone (and 5 million monthly active users), we're seeing parallel growth in BAT too. EtherScan presently shows nearly 70k holders with half-a-million transfers. All of these numbers continue to rise at an exciting rate. Adoption is happening, and it's happening faster than we had expected.

As for when we'll surpass IE, Firefox, or Chrome? It may be a little while longer, given the history and reach these browsers have. IE/Edge both ship on the most popular operating system. Firefox had a 16-year head-start, and Chrome is advertised all throughout the Google Universe, making it the most commonly used browser on desktop. That being said, we're not the least bit intimidated. Brendan Eich was able to rescue the browser industry from IE's grip in the 90's and early 00's, and we will do it again with Brave.

We're seeing a radical change in the way people view the web, and their data. People are becoming more aware of how risky the incumbent models are to their privacy and security. Traditional advertising on the web has been co-opted by bad actors, to the detriment of all parties involved. Security has been something technical users can achieve by the careful selection of extensions and configuration of browser properties. Brave aims to create a sustainable web, and a browser that treats privacy and security as a baseline expectation, for all users. Users are resonating with our message, and they're bringing an army. The future is Brave.

u/Yankee902: I’ve read your work history on LinkedIn and follow what you do on the Brave Discord channel to help build and fix Brave with the community. I’m impressed by all your knowledge and drive to do what you do every day. I’ve tried to learn coding (c++, JavaScript) and I know firsthand that it’s very difficult unless you have a high level of mental energy, passion, and focus. My question is, what types of things did you do that you feel are important to help you learn everything at such a high level? Meaning, do you have any tips to help yourself stay consistent day in and day out without getting brain-overload?

Great question! Passion is the key. In my 20+ years of development, the best programmers I've met weren't necessarily those with the most formal education. The best programmers I've met are usually those who are driven by something more than just academic accomplishment, or job security. If you can find something that excites you, you will usually go much further than those around you.

When I was a teenager I got my first computer. A few of my friends also got computers around this time. They used their computers for homework, while I used mine for modding video games (kids, do your homework). When they were done with a task, they powered-down. For me, it would be difficult to complete a task without first getting really excited and/or curious about another task. I wanted to spend every waking moment hacking on the computer; in fact, I dropped out of the varsity wrestling team to focus on programming (this was a big deal for me as I had wrestled every year for about a decade). My coach wasn't happy, to say the least 🙂

If you'd like to chat sometime about how you can align your passions with programming, ping me on X (formerly Twitter). I'm always happy to find time to speak with new developers about the industry, and how they can achieve more. Thank you for the great question!

u/nemomendel: Have you been in contact with any media companies, like the Dow Jones, about using BAT for paywalls? Seems like low-hanging fruit.

We announced a partnership with Dow Jones back in April of 2018. We're in talks with others as well, exploring ways in which BAT could be integrated into their properties and/or services. One thing we have to be sure of is that any integration works in such a way that it doesn't compromise the user's trust in Brave, and our commitment to their privacy/security. We'll have more information on future partnerships to share in the future, so please do stay tuned to official channels!

u/StrosPartisan: Can you give us a sense for what big projects are on your to-do list, and how they're prioritized?

I don't have many big projects on my list, besides help Brave Core spread as far and wide as possible. That being said, there are a lot of things I would really love to start working on, including documentation, tutorials, and guides for developers and users of Brave. I used to do a "Weekend Warrior" series years ago where I'd stream 8-10 hours of web compat debugging, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript tutorials, and more. That was loads of fun, and something I'd like to start doing again in the very near future. A regular podcast would be interesting too; we'll see where that idea goes 😉 Thank you for the question!

u/dauneld: What are the most common risks, uncertainties, or misconceptions about BAT/Brave that you observe coming from the developer community?

BAT and Brave have a couple different types of challenges. Brave's aggressive blocking can, at times, result in some broken experiences across the web. This is due in large part to lack of standards in key areas. For instance, ads on the web aren't semantically marked as such. As a result, when you attempt to block them you can wind up blocking too much. We're aiming to work with others in the standards space to resolve these types of issues, and ensure that the future of the web is more semantic, interoperable, and less brittle. As for challenges faced by the blockchain (and BAT) I'd encourage you to check out Thank you for the question!

u/SleepShadow: I really enjoyed your presentation at the Browser Contributor Days.

Why is it important for Brave to be at the Contributor Days?

Which Browser does have the most affection for what Brave is doing?

Did you see some interesting new insights from other browsers that you would like to see added to Brave?

How is the after party? Is Brave the new kid in town nobody wants to speak with?

Thank you for the kind words, SleepShadow. Contributor Days was awesome—Tracy Lee does a fantastic job organizing these events (I'll be participating in State of Browsers on December 11th).

I think it's important that Brave has a seat at the table for the diversity of ideas. Brave is a unique browser in the landscape of user agents. We block ads and trackers, as well as fingerprinting attempts and more. And we're not alone in this; we represent the new normal in this space. As such, Brave will play a crucial role in the development of web standards moving forward, and (to varying degrees) the direction other browsers take.

As for which browser vendors have the most affection for us, there was a great deal of positivity all around. Different browsers are at liberty to explore privacy and security features to different degrees. The larger your user base, the slower you tend to move (generally speaking). We are encouraged by the efforts of Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and others in this space, and look forward to working with them to shape the future of the web.

One of the things I really enjoyed hearing about was Feature Policy, and the ability to dictate which web platform and API features can or cannot be used in any given document. CSP is a really awesome feature to specify which types of resources can be loaded, and from where. Feature Policy is a natural extension of this, allowing even more granular control over what a page can or cannot do. I'm looking forward to seeing this in Brave in the future.

As for the after-parties, you'd be surprised at how excited and encouraged others are about Brave. Following that event, I was contacted by some developers of another browser who wanted to work together to achieve a better web for users and advertisers. Many of these engineers have been waiting for an opportunity to truly make a big difference in these sectors, and Brave is that opportunity.

u/Brave_w0tson: What is your favorite thing about working at Brave? Also thanks for everything you do!

Picking a favorite is tough. The people, the project, the industry, and the potential. They are all incredible!

It's not every day you get to work with some of the most talented and accomplished engineers in the industry. It's still fun to tell people I work with Brendan Eich and a handful of Netscape engineers. Every now and then I'll name-drop Yan Zhu and catch some excited remarks from developers. Brave has a nice combination of living legends, and legends in the making. Every day is full of inspiring moments with my team.

Brave as a project is exciting as well. Digital Advertising as we know it was born in 1994, and immediately co-opted by bad actors to track users across the web. In 1995, Netscape released NPAPI and JavaScript support, giving immediate rise to things like the Fast Forward plugin, which blocked ads and trackers. We've seen the community fighting back from the very beginning, but never as effectively as Brave is fighting back today. With things like ANONIZE, the blockchain, and machine-learning, we can finally make a lasting impact.

When I consider the industry, I think back again to 1994 where it began with images and cookies. In 1995 and 1996 we saw the rise of companies like NetGravity and DoubleClick. They successfully developed tools to track users around the web, yielding explosive growth to the digital advertising sector. But from the beginning, journalists and technical users lamented the cost of personal privacy online. With time, this industry grew more complex, giving rise to sophisticated bot farms and other forms of fraud. Brave is in a unique position to reform the digital advertising space with local, machine-learning models. Brave and the Attention Token have the unique opportunity to restore privacy and security to the web, while at the same time making digital advertising more effective and profitable than it has ever been in the past.

Those are just a few of my favorite things 🙂

Read the full AMA here.

Read Yan Zhu’s AMA from October 17th, 2018 here.

Follow the BAT Community’s Updates here:

Upcoming BAT Community AMAs:

November 2018

Brian Brown, Chief Business Officer (November 14th)
Alex Wykoff, User Research and Testing
Marshall Rose, Senior Software Engineer

December 2018

Ryan Watson and Kamil Jozwiak, DevOps and QA
Luke Mulks, Jan Piotrowski, and Brad Flora from the Business Development team

January 2019

Tom Lowenthal, Security and Privacy Coordinator

February 2019

Holli Bohren, Chief Financial Officer
Ben Livshits, Chief Scientist

Related articles

Ready for a better Internet?

Brave’s easy-to-use browser blocks ads by default, making the Web cleaner, faster, and safer for people all over the world.