The web is broken; let’s fix it

The O’Reilly Podcast: Brendan Eich on disrupting advertising, decentralizing payments, and privacy by design.

By Laurel Ruma
May 14, 2018
Sharpest tool in the shed Sharpest tool in the shed (source: Lachlan Donald on Flickr)

In this episode of the O’Reilly Podcast, I talk with Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, co-founder of the Mozilla Project and Foundation, and CEO and founder of Brave Software. Eich will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming O’Reilly Fluent Conference, July 11-14, 2018, in San Jose.

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Discussion points:

  • Fixing the broken web: According to Eich, we’ve built a web that’s allowed “surveillance capitalism, where advertisers and publishers can’t make a match without third parties to track and to run ads.” Content producers can’t make the web work with just subscriptions, and consumers are tired of exchanging privacy and data for slow-performing sites and the increased risk of privacy invasion.
  • Disrupting the third-party advertising model: Eich says, “There’s huge disruption happening where internet and television advertising merge. And the advertising model that worked when everyone sat around to watch the Brady Bunch (like I did on Friday night) isn’t the same, where there were a few channels that the major brands could buy advertising space in. Instead, we have to find a new way to support a lot more content.“
  • Embracing cryptocurrency and decentralization: On building the Brave browser, Eich says, “Our system is meant to eventually decentralize, and that means what we do now is a combination of blockchain and some centralized services, because we pay these companies, like partners, in U.S. dollars, for instance.”
  • Customers should be able to opt-in to ad systems and companies must embrace privacy by design. Eich explains how the Brave browser is different: “The problem is a lot of websites, including Facebook, have grown tracking capabilities around the web, or if they’re not a Google or Facebook, they partner with trackers, and then a whole set of conflicts of interest, and malware risks, and fraud risks emerge. That’s what we’re trying to take down by cutting out all the middle players.”
  • Open source is table stakes for business: Eich says, “The big value of the blockchain is that the code is open source and the ledger, the chain of blocks that everybody’s replicating and confirming through a process like mining or some other proving process, is all open and public, and can be audited.”
  • Build a company that aligns users’ interest to your own: Eich argues: “We try to align economic interests. Money isn’t everything, but if those are out of alignment, probably everything else is out of alignment, too.”
  • The browser war is not over: And Eich adds a challenge: “Now we’re into a new world where I think the browsers like Chrome have been captured by ad companies. It’s time for a new set of browsers.”

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Post topics: Web Programming