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Brave is unethical. The key problem is they insert themselves into the revenue stream without the consent of the web publishers. It's fine to block ads entirely, but substituting your own ads and collecting money from that is wrong.



I'm not sure I see the clear cut ethical dilemma you do.

Option 1. block all ads, publishers receive no revenue.

Option 2. block all ads, user opts in to unrelated ads, user can choose to give some of the proceeds of seeing those ads to publishers they utilize.

How can (2) possibly be worse than (1)?


There's also:

Option 0. block no ads, publishers receive all of the applicable revenue from their preferred network

It isn't clear to me from the website what happens if the publisher is unaware or unable or unwilling to claim revenue generated through this fringe browser's alternative revenue mechanism. Who ends up with that money? Is advertising even shown? Is the user aware of whether or not the publisher is in a position to claim revenues of the ads they're seeing?

Depending on the answers to those questions, the addition of (2) could be worse for these publishers if it makes some users who otherwise would've (begrudgingly or otherwise) chosen option (0) feel morally justified in switching over to (2), converting their real (0)-derived revenues into unrealised (2)-derived theoretical revenues.


> Option 0. block no ads, publishers receive all of the applicable revenue from their preferred network

Unfortunately, that is likely not an optimally ethical reference state for the browser. Navigating with no ad blocker leaves the user open to all kinds of nasty tracking, auto-loading, and general trickery. When taken together that shady behavior can be seen by a reasonable person to outweigh the benefits of maximizing revenue for the user's favorite sites.

Case in point: if I want to open a pdf music score from IMSLP, IMSLP displays an ad with the prominent text "Download PDF" in it. If I follow the ad it eventually prompts me to install a Chrome extension. Do you think it's wise to install that extension?

In general I trust that IMSLP is an ethical site-- after all, they've spent a lot of effort to ensure that nobody downloads a score that is still under copyright in the country where the user is located. Did they forget to check a box to disallow misleading ads for their site? If there's no such checkbox "preferred network" is quite a euphemism and the correct/ethical reference state for browsers is with ublock origin installed.

Edit: just to be clear-- 2 could still be worse than 1 depending on how Brave browser behaves. But for most practical uses of the web by non-technical users, your 0 is almost always a worse ethical choice than 1.


Option 0 is no longer an option because ads are no longer just ads. They are malicious trackers that collect as much data about you as possible and sell it all over the place. It's unethical for a site to even host such "ads" as a method of monetization.


Because it inserts a middleman who takes a cut that the publisher did not enter into an agreement with. If it was just users giving to publishers, that would be fine. Having a middleman hold the publisher's monetization hostage is ethically dubious for the middleman.

Consider that I could pirate a movie, or I could pirate it and pay the creators directly, leaving out the distributors the creators contracted with. I fully agree that the second is slightly more ethical than the first, even though the creator agreed to neither. The problem occurs when some Tube site distributes the videos without the creators' consent, collects money from the viewers, takes a cut, and passes the rest to the creator. The Tube site is ethically wrong.


But nobody is holding anything hostage. When you use Brave, you can opt-in to display ads on your Browser, and while doing so still get ads from Brave. So the choice to cut-off ads from the content publisher is yours. If you think it's unethical - just do not block the ads.


Brave is holding the publisher's monetization hostage. Again, my issue is not with the user but with Brave.


But... they're not though.

Ad-blocking in Brave (as it already exists in every other browser via plugins) is optional.

Brave ads (a paradigm which doesn't exist in any other browser) are optional.

You can disable both, enable both, or disable one and not the other. The choice is absolutely on the user and Brave isn't holding anything hostage.


Using a piracy tube is also optional. That doesn't make the people running the privacy tube any more ethical. Brave is replacing a monetization scheme that the publisher willingly entered into with one where Brave inserts itself into the existing monetization flow and stops the monetization completely unless the publisher deals with Brave. Similarly, the tube sites stop monetization for its users unless the creators deal with them.

You're still confusing who is at fault here.


> Having a middleman hold the publisher's monetization hostage is ethically dubious for the middleman.

I think that's why they went with a cryptocurrency for payment. Brave isn't a middleman, or at least there's no technical reason why they have to be. Users pay publishers directly, using tokens that they earn from Brave in exchange for viewing ads.


Tokens only go to verified publishers. Signing up to receive them is basically that consent. Otherwise (site or channel not verified), the transaction never leaves the user's browser

wikipedia.org, slashdot.org, and other sites that show a purple checkmark in the URL bar have gone through that verification process


"I blocked your source of revenue, now I'm holding some money which you can either sign up to receive a fraction of, or don't and you won't get any" doesn't sound like "consent" to me.


Setting aside the rewards program, people can and will use ad-blockers. Even if those were illegal for some reason, there are lists available (such as hosts, https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts) where you can make known tracking/advertising/etc hostnames non-routable

Are you saying that site owners should feel violated by folks installing ad-blockers (or using host files)?


No one believes that ad blockers are good for content creators.

Brave, however, positions itself as being good for creators with its rewards program. A user may be forgiven for thinking that this is actually better for creators: "Earn rewards and give back to your favorite Creators. Support your favorite sites with micropayments."

If Brave takes away revenue from the creators, and offers them a fraction of that revenue back, that's one thing. BUT you can't turn around and say that a creator accepting that fraction is "consent" to the whole program.

That's what I was saying.


I think you have a point, but the Brave Rewards program can also be seen as a redistribution system. For the sites that one wishes to support, one can choose to disable the ad-blocking system in Brave and see the standard ads. For the sites that are distributing bad advertisements, the ad-blocking system is useful and might be wise to enable. The in-browser ads then give a small funding to the user who sends it back to the sites that were unblocked, further increasing their revenue.


The idea is to nudge advertisers and publishers towards a more transparent model without middlemen. Unethical is what's happening today, with middlemen making obscene profits. It's more like civil disobedience than unethical.


Middlemen are not ipso facto unethical.

The publishers have voluntarily opted-in to ad exchanges because those exchanges provide value by aggregating demand in a way that would be difficult for all but the largest publishers to do themselves (and the largest publishers do, which is why FB/Google/Snap/Twitter/etc all sell their own ads).

It's not as if anyone is forcing publishers to not deal directly with buyers. The exchanges certainly don't have the market power to do so.


e.g. when facebook took the page followers that people worked to acquire, and made them pay for users who intently subscribed to them, that was undestandable from a revenue-generating side, but unethical. Also when google forces people to pay the google tax.


I've been using Brave for a few months and I've never seen it substitute it's own ads within any applications or websites.

It instead uses MacOS notifications to show ads which open new browser tabs when you click on them. So it does block ads entirely and then shows it's own ads through a separate channel.


Modern online advertising is more unethical, so shrug




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