Monetisation models and user hostility

Recently Krijn pointed me to the Brave Rewards programme, and asked me what I thought of it. I immediately thought “Meh” but it took me a while to figure out why. Now I know.

If I understand correctly, the Brave system works as follows: you can give money to your favourite content creators (yay!), and can either donate that money yourself to Brave for redistribition (yay!) or earn it by watching ads (booh!). There is considerable choice involved in viewing ads (mkay...).


I tried signing up as a content creator, and now I’m in the phase where I have to pick a payment provider and do all kinds of complicated steps. I haven’t done so yet. The user-friendliness of these steps is appalling. I do not hold this against Brave, because other systems, notably Coil, have the same problem.

Signing up for payment services is a complete hassle, because you don’t know what you’re doing while being granted the illusion of free choice by picking one of two or three different systems — that you don’t understand and that aren’t explained. Why would I pick EasyMoneyGetter over CoinWare when both of them are black boxes I never heard of?

Also, these services use insane units. Brave use BATs, though to their credit I saw a translation to US$ — but not to any other currency, even though they could have figured out from my IP address that I come from Europe. Coil once informed me I had earned 0.42 XBP without further comment. W? T? F?

As long as signing up for an unclear, but probably tiny, reward in made-up units remains such a complete hassle few people will do it. We can’t roll out monetisation with such aggressively user-hostile sign-up and accounting processes in place. We are not cryptocurrency nerds. We just want to get paid.

Oh, and you should remember your password for the payment system in addition to the password for the redistribution system. And if you lose it, you should remember where your special code that I can’t remember the name of is stored — a code you get during sign-up without any indication that it is vitally important, and that is offhandedly and unclearly referred to in Forgot Password-mails. (True story, this.)

The redistribution system that first manages to hide all this junk from the user by reporting in real-world units and by just signing them up to a payment service automatically, without fake free choice — or, better still, by becoming a payment service — will have a significant competitive advantage because regular folk can actually use the system.


These problems are shared by Coil and Brave. The difference between their models boils down to ads. Coil has no ad component; you just pay Coil, and it redistributes your money over the sites you visit, weighted by time spent. Brave does something similar, but it also allows you to watch ads to earn more money to redistribute. This may sound great, but to me it doesn’t really.

Why involve ads at all?

Shouldn’t we teach people to pay for content they like? To see paying as a matter of honour, and of keeping the web clean and healthy?

I feel that involving ads shows that you’re unwilling to think outside the box. OK, it’s easy money, but in order to truly take back the web we have to break our dependence on easy ad money streams and travel the more complicated route of actually asking people to actually pay for what they consume — to tear down the free content entitlement that’s one of the least appealing aspects of the web development community.

YOU should pay. In, like, money — and not in “attention.”

But the Valley is unable to think outside the ad box. I don’t think we should look to it for a solution.

To me, the entire point of the coming wave of monetisation is to get rid of ads. Brave isn’t doing that — yet. That’s why I dislike its model and prefer Coil’s.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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