Here’s what just happened with the BAT sale

So Brave, the privacy-focused browser headed by Branden Eich, just launched its own cryptocurrency: the basic attention token (BAT) via an ICO on the Ethereum network. They used a smart contract to crowdfund around 156,000 Ether (roughly $35m), sent to an contract address released shortly before the sale.

The ICO was complete in a record 24 seconds, making it almost certainly the fastest ICO of this scale to complete. A huge success for the Brave team. Except…

A lot of people are very unhappy on the Brave community slack channel:

It seems that the entire stock of BAT was bought up by just 190 or so actors. Including this guy:

In fact just 5 accounts now hold over 53% of all BAT and the top 100 accounts control 98.92% of all tokens.

Clearly some heavy hitters were prepared with very large automated transactions for the moment the required block height was reached for the contract to open.

Here are some problems for BAT right now:

  1. The BAT team has spent a long time building up hype and support, including a community committed to the Brave vision. That community is now really pissed off because they couldn’t participate in the ICO they’ve been waiting months for. It also cost a lot of people some Ether in fees to send transactions that never resulted in BAT (one user on Slack estimates over $80,000) in total due to poor real information.
  2. The cryptocurrency space is founded on the idea that decentralisation is the solution to many of life’s problems. But a controlling share of BAT being held by 5 addresses (who knows if they’re even different actors) doesn’t align very well with the decentralised utopia a lot of cryptocurrency supporters think we should be aiming for.
  3. The whole philosophy of Brave is that the internet needs reforming because current payment models push in the direction of horrible adverts for users, low revenues for publishers, and poor ROI for advertisers. Brave wants to improve the internet with its browser and cryptocurrency by circulating BAT between publishers, advertisers and users in a way that improves things for all of them. Until now it’s been easy for Brave advocates to assume that the Brave vision is of a system that makes it easier for small actors (publishers etc) to benefit financially from the internet, which is something a lot of people can get excited about. The way this ICO has panned out, however, it’s become clear that this isn’t necessarily a core part of the Brave vision.

So watch this space! I’ve been using Brave as my main browser for a couple of months now, and I can’t help feeling pretty disappointed about the way this ICO has gone. It’s going to be really interesting to see if Brave can salvage the community they’ve built. Or if now the ICO has been so successful they’ll try to continue without community support.

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