GAB, the censorship-resistant alternative to Twitter, has forked the Brave Browser, rebranding it as Dissenter.
“Down the road we will re-add bitcoin integration (which Brave had originally, but removed) via the lightning network (we already have a partner in place for this),” they say.
The browser has not yet launched as far as we can see, but they show a demo of it, with the browser not really that much different from any other browser.
Except in two ways. It removes all ads, and unlike Brave, it doesn’t add its own ads. Gab said:
Someone will make money however, and perhaps the idea here is for the browser to offer paywall like option where individuals can pay for an article or for a subscription with bitcoin.
Presumably Andrew Torba, Gab’s founder, would keep a bit from such payments, but the problem with the paywall system isn’t the method of payment. It’s the fact that there are just so many paywalls that pretty much makes it impossible to subscribe to all the papers unless you are rich.
The solution for movies was Netflix, one subscription and effectively all the entertainment you want. When it comes to newspapers, such solution would have considerable implications for free speech.
Netflix has immense power over movie creators. For someone to have such power over what paper is written and funded would be a significant step backwards and it would amount to licensed media, an abhorrent thought.
If Netflix, however, is the browser, that’s a bit different. Here presumably there would be some sort of automatic system, some sort of bitcoin wallet, publishers who presumably can choose what subscription they want to offer, and then individuals would just be able to click without requiring a sign-up.
Obviously Google, Apple and perhaps Facebook are probably watching. To compete with Gab would be as easy as Chrome adding a bitcoin or eth wallet, then instead of publishers going to some customization menu that presumably relies on Torba following their instructions, you would have decentralized integration by just copy pasting some code if publishers want to.
Because while the rhetoric from Torba is fine and nice, we all know how “do no evil” can wane with time. Giving control of publishing to Torba or Brendan Eich can be a very dangerous step down the line.
Instead, where the media is concerned, there has to be decentralized implementation or choice, there has to be no central party that decides, and there has to be no requirement of permission by anyone.
All three have to be at a technical level not of a just “trust us” manner as although plenty can be said about some media, we shouldn’t forget journalists are assassinated far too often for the fine work some of them do to maintain and perhaps expand our liberties.
Brave Browser arguably doesn’t do much to empower quality journalism. They merely replace Google ads and centralize it in the Bat team with far too much “trust us” in its current design as it effectively doesn’t use the blockchain at all and thus has pretty much no transparency.
Dissenter might be interesting in the Paywall aspect presuming they only facilitate the ability to make the paywall process as convenient as possible, rather than in anyway being able to decide who can have such paywall or that all should have it, etc.
However, one benefit of ads from a free speech perspective is that anyone can initially support itself or can fall back on ads if there’s an industry recession. In its absence, they might not be able to get to the point where they can justify putting up a paywall.
Meaning Dissenter too falls quite short of empowering creators because while users might not like ads and might not like to pay, the alternative in their absence is billionaire controlled propaganda media.
Any solution has to square both the interest of users and the interest of publishers because the freedom of expression is not just words on an old document.
What is interesting however is that innovation is once more appearing in this space which went stagnant after Google’s domination. The competition between Brave and dissenter too, as well as presumably others, might also lead to a better holistic solution.
Such solution likely has to mix different monetization methods to strike a delicate balance between keeping information free and keeping information funded.
Because we shouldn’t lose sight of the many who can’t pay for whatever reason. Tomorrow’s Einstein might, after all, be a smart but poor lad or las in Africa or Calcutta.