Introducing Sponsored Images in Brave

by Jan 15, 2020Announcements, Community, Press

Today we’d like to introduce “Sponsored Images”, the latest addition to Brave’s private advertising platform.

These branded images will appear in the form of large, beautiful background images within our new tab page. Sponsored Images will bring additional revenue to support Brave’s mission, and give users a new reason to turn on Brave Rewards so they can get compensated for their attention. These images will begin to appear across our mobile and desktop browsers over the next few months.

As always with Brave, Sponsored Images are private.

The Backstory

If you use Brave, you’re probably familiar with the background images shown on the new tab page. We’ve offered this feature since September 2016, and it has since become one of the most recognizable elements of Brave. These photos are selected by our design team; some have been submitted by members of the Brave community. There are currently 16 background images bundled with the browser, and we periodically update them to keep them fresh.

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback for this feature over the last three years. People like the range of scenes and the visual relief they offer. Even so, some people prefer a simpler start page, which is why we recently added the ability to hide the background image.

Here are a few examples of the images now included in Brave:

The fourth image is a picture of a SpaceX rocket launch — an arresting visual, and one of a number of space-related images we’ve included over time.

It came about after a Brave user on Twitter suggested that we could incorporate a few of the amazing SpaceX launch photos into our rotation because they were shared with the world under a Creative Commons license. We liked the idea and added a few into the mix.

Enter the Sponsored Image

About a month after the update, a couple of other Brave followers asked an interesting question: Is SpaceX paying Brave to display these images?

While the answer was a simple no, it got us thinking. What if we could use some of these popular and tasteful new tab page images to help support the entire Brave ecosystem?

This idea became Sponsored Images —  based on the existing format of the new tab page with its rotating set of images. We’ll be offering select advertisers the ability to place a branded image into the rotation, along with the existing images.

Here are the details:

  • Like the existing images shown on the new tab page, these are full screen, immersive images. Each brand and each image is approved individually by Brave; and the format is limited to the large image and a small logo overlaid at the lower left.
  • Sponsored images are private. The ad acts more like a billboard than a typical digital ad — the sponsorship is the same for everyone in a given country.
  • Sponsored images appear by default in the image rotation, and are shown in every fourth new tab created. You can turn off sponsored images (or all background images) directly on the new tab page:

Towards a Sustainable Platform

Another thing we’ve been working toward is encouraging more people to opt into Brave Rewards, so they can start earning 70% of our ad revenue by viewing private ads — and start contributing back to content creators they love.

Sponsored Images is part of that effort. It gives you another reason to enable Brave Rewards. The first time you see one of these images, you’ll be given an opportunity to switch on Brave Rewards and to start earning from sponsored images, just as people who use Brave Rewards today earn from notification-based ads. If you opt into Brave Rewards, you will receive a 70% revenue share for sponsored images; the other 30% goes to Brave.

At the same time, you can easily turn off all sponsored images, right then and there, should you so choose.

Sponsored images will be shown by default to everyone using Brave globally. While many Brave users have switched on Brave Rewards, a significant number have yet to dive in, and we can’t compensate you for your attention until you switch on Brave Rewards and create a wallet.

Sponsored images give everyone another reason and another reminder to turn on Brave Rewards. With more people switching it on, and with more rewards flowing when they do, we expect more BAT to make its way to content creators. And supporting the whole Web — while rewarding you for your attention — is what Brave Rewards is all about. This is another step towards making Brave Rewards and the BAT ecosystem a viable and stable replacement for the surveillance economy that currently rules the Web.

Sponsored Images and Brave’s Advertising and Privacy Stance

It’s worth stepping back to explain how this relates to Brave’s overall stance on ads and privacy.

Brave is absolutely committed to preserving your privacy — we block tracking by known and unknown companies whose businesses consist of building dossiers of what sites you visit and how you interact with them. We don’t track anyone ourselves, either. Blocking tracking as we do effectively blocks most online ads, as nearly all ads today rely on tracking.

We differentiate between first-party and third-party ads. First-party ads are served by the site you’re viewing; a good example are the ads that are shown on a DuckDuckGo search results page. The “first party” in question is the site serving both the content and the advertising. So, by searching at duckduckgo.com, you are deliberately interacting with that site, and Brave therefore does not block ads served in this way.

Third-party ads are different — they are capable of tracking you across the web, creating a dossier of your activity across different sites, with no hint that your data is being compiled and shared in this way. Third-party ads also serve as vectors for transmission of malware, as the sites showing them do not have effective control over what’s being served. We block these ads and the trackers that enable them.

Sponsorship ads in general lend themselves well to delivery as first-party ads. A site running a sponsorship ad can deliver the sponsored content first-party, as part of the content of that site. A sponsorship does not need cross-site tracking — or user-level targeting — to deliver its value. Sites serving sponsorships from their own servers are not blocked by Brave.

Brave’s CEO Brendan Eich puts the history of web-delivered ads in context in a podcast interview with Peter McCormack on “What Bitcoin did”, providing a great deal of rich detail about first-party vs. cross-site “third-party” or “programmatic” ads. The distinction can sometimes be imperfect — some sites sell sponsorships directly, with full control over the content being delivered, but use third parties to deliver them, thus enabling cross-site tracking. Brave blocks these ads.

Sponsored images are a form of first-party ad, with no user tracking.

Growth for the Brave Ecosystem

It’s important to encourage all Brave users to turn on Brave Rewards. We’ve made sure that sponsored images aren’t invasive, and that they have absolutely no privacy impact. We hope that this is a positive step toward a private web that values your attention — and makes it easy for you to support the content you love. As always, we look forward to your feedback.

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Continue reading for news on ad blocking, features, performance, privacy and Basic Attention Token related announcements.

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