It’s a scary time for YouTubers: YouTube’s community guidelines are changing seemingly on the fly, demonetization is affecting a large number of creators and the future of the platform that many people call home is uncertain. Creators don’t want to leave YouTube, but they are trying to figure out what’s next.
Maybe the answer isn’t finding a new home, but a new browser. Brave is an open-source web browser that YouTubers are using in wake of the platform’s evolving policies. Created by Brian Body and Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich, Brave’s design is based on Google’s open-software, source code program Chromium. Unlike Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari or any other mainstream browser, Brave was built to block intrusive ads and create a less chaotic online experience.
Included within the browser is Brave Payments, which the company introduced in beta in September 2016. The idea behind the Payments tool is that users should be allowed to choose who can financially benefit from their clicks without having to sift through ads — or feeling guilty about using ad blockers. Using Brave Payments, users can set up a wallet that could be filled with tokens, and support sites or creators they like more directly.
“While everything is automatic, once enabled, the Brave Payments UI allows you to control which sites receive your support by manually enabling or disabling funding for any of the sites you visit,” the blog post reads.
It wasn’t until November 2017, however, that Brave and YouTubers started working together. Brave announced that users could use Basic Attention Tokens as a way to direct their wallet funds to their favorite YouTubers.
“YouTube viewers can either distribute contributions based on the time they spend viewing material or by pinning a set amount for a particular channel,” the company said. “Compensation for YouTube creators no longer needs to be based on vague rules or mercurial algorithms, as users can decide who to compensate. This new ability will especially benefit YouTube creators who have under 10,000 lifetime views, as they do not receive ad revenue from YouTube.”
By Jan. 24, Brave announced that “nearly 6,000 YouTube creators (that have a total of just under 110 million subscribers) are now registered to receive tokens.”
There are several obvious reasons why YouTubers would register for Brave, especially as they look for new ways to monetize their content. But the biggest surge in YouTuber registration can be traced back to a recent video from creator Philip DeFranco, uploaded on Jan. 17.
For those losing your partnership with Youtube I highly recommend you create a shirt on Teespring, you start a Patreon, and make sure you're a verified publisher on Brave (They're even giving away $1 million in tokens to incentivize support for creators). https://t.co/3YdgeS2JC9 pic.twitter.com/RGqyHgJdlr— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) January 17, 2018
“The way that I over-simplify [Brave] to my friends is that it’s essentially like YouTube Red, but you can choose if you want your money to go to someone or not, because you can do these monthly payouts based on what you actually watch,” DeFranco said about the advantages to using the browser.
DeFranco’s promotion of the browser and Brave’s Payments system has some viewers wondering if it’s is a paid endorsement. The Federal Trade Commission’s rules state that influencers or celebrities are required to disclose any paid endorsements in their videos and descriptions. Failure to disclose endorsement deals is misleading, according to the FTC.
The FTC’s Endorsement Guides provide that if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication. A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. Importantly, the Endorsement Guides apply to both marketers and endorsers.
DeFranco doesn’t ever state that he’s accepted payment for endorsing the company, however, and it’s very possible that he’s not. Redditors have noted that DeFranco has an avid interest in cryptocurrency, making his involvement with Brave logical. Other creators are also going public about their appreciation for the platform in a similar fashion, without any seeming involvement from Brave. Bart Baker, a YouTuber with just under 10 million subscribers, is another creator who’s trying to earn additional revenue from Brave.
Baker recently posted a video talking about how YouTube’s monetization problems have affected his channel. Best known for creating parody videos, Baker said he hasn’t been able to make a profit off his recent uploads, afterYouTube removed him from its top-tier ad platform, Google Preferred, without explanation.
“For me to even break even on a parody, I would have to be getting 40 million views a video,” Baker said. “Obviously this is not sustainable.”
But Baker goes a step further than DeFranco when pumping up Brave. He asked his viewers and subscribers to use Brave and its Payments system, so that he can be further paid. Baker, like other creators, doesn’t want to leave YouTube for another platform, but he acknowledged the stresses that even the top creators have right now as YouTube’s continues to change its monetization system and community guidelines.
“I desperately want to keep putting out well-produced content, but I’m sick of being suppressed instead of rewarded,” he said in the video. “I’m sick of not being able to make the money back that I put into my videos due to the fact that I’m not getting ads served on my videos and people are not seeing them.”
It’s unclear if Brave will be the true monetization workaround that YouTubers have been looking for, but the company is working with creators to figure out how to make it better. On Feb. 15, Brave announced it was offering $5 to verified creators for every referral to its services. The process is simple: YouTubers tweet out a Brave link, which their fans can then use to download the browser, while also helping out the creators at the same time.
“Later, they collect BAT [Basic Attention Tokens] for each person referred to Brave who uses the browser – at least minimally — across 30 days,” the blog post reads.
There are some concerns about Brave’s use of cryptocurrency, however. The cryptocurrency market has come under scrutiny in general because of fluctuating stock, purchasing mania and scammers. The surge of interest in bitcoin led billionaire investor Warren Buffet to proclaim, “I can say almost with certainty that cryptocurrencies will come to a bad end.”
Adding to potential user concerns is that it’s challenging to find in-depth explanations of how Brave’s revenue-earning system works. The Verge wrote about the browser in 2016, noting that the concept for the company may seem like theft to critics.
“The browser is taking money that would be going to publishers, inserting itself in the middle and taking a cut,” The Verge reported. CEO Brendan Eich responded, arguing that if there are enough users, “Brave could look like a better source of revenue for them than advertisers.”
For now, Brave seems like the hot new monetization tool for YouTubers. There are advantages to its service, like direct payment opportunities for fans and creators, but there are also lurking concerns over its use of cryptocurrency. Only time will tell if Brave will become the true go-to method for YouTubers looking to get paid.