Yesterday I wrote about the issue that Brave now faces with Gemini. As someone who uses Gemini and has some BAT trapped in Gemini Earn I am still trying to figure that situation out and what my next steps will be. Looking into the issue more I decided to check Brave's Blog to see if they had posted anything to address this issue with Brave Browser users. Much to my surprise I realized that I had missed two different blog posts from earlier in the week that I feel really highlight how successful the Browser has been along with new developments.
The first one does not deal with the BAT system overhaul rather it deals with the much more/arguably more important function of the browser and that is privacy. With governments across the world eroding public freedoms and in some instances blatantly censoring information Brave has long provided an option to privately browse with Tor. Given the increase in affected users/countries, Brave has worked on and is releasing the next step with Tor private browser and that is support for bridges. Bridges are the way for users to access the Tor system when a country is blocking access to the network itself and are a critical part of helping people have free access to information. More can be found about this in Brave's announcement here.
Now for the BAT system overhaul.
As much as I hate to say it this was a long time coming and will trade one centralized system for another. Coming in early Feburary when the next updated Brave version is released (1.48.x) people who have opted into Brave Rewards to earn BAT will need to connect a custodial account from either Gemini or Uphold (bitFlyer if you are in Japan). This is to give them a place to "send" the BAT.
By doing this Brave will be ending what it calls its "virtual BAT" system. This was the system in place primarily for unverified users. Brave called this BAT "vBAT" (virtual BAT) and unlike with verified users this BAT was actually not on the blockchain rather it was a centralized point system and these points could be redeemed for BAT if and when a user connected a custodial account.
The timeframe for this sunset is not written in stone yet but could come as early as sometime in April 2023 giving users time to make the change. However, the final payout of vBAT will occur in March for the February earnings so that part of the program is ending relivily soon. Brave has already released the message that will popup for unverified/non-conected users and will look like this
There are a total of 93 countries or regions that are not supported by any of these custodial partners and because of that sadly they are going to lose access to earning BAT. Something that caught my attention about the list though is some are pretty big and significant countries for instance Germany, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands are on the list. Others no not surprise me as much with the likes of Iran, Cuba, and China on the list. One that I got a good laugh out of was Antarctica.... if you live in Antarctica you will lose access to your BAT earnings! Here is a link to the full list to see if you will be affected.
Why they are now removing the vBAT option is a question that I know many are going to ask. To be honest in the reasons that they listed like they were supposed to have a rolling expiration date, the fact vBAT was stored locally which caused a whole host of issues on the forms about BAT being "stolen", or the whole bad actor problem that Brave ran into when you could refer people to the browser and the payouts were $7.50 at one point which is crazy to look back at getting rid of vBAT does make a lot of sense as it will save them a headache and once and for all eliminate the issue that was faced with the fakeprofiles being created that reaped in a ton of BAT and have since idealed. To those in these countries though it just sucks. While they have been able to add more and more regions as time has gone on it will be a pretty big blow to Brave as well at least initially.
To me though the biggest take away was that they finally addressed the elephant in the room that people did not understand. Why was it not possible to connect your Brave Wallet directly to Brave Rewards and receive the payouts that way. Previously Brave has addressed this however it was mostly on Twitter from what I have seen and it was never really mentioned in a blog post. Because of this I do not think a lot of people would believe me when I said it was because the regulators okay'd BAT payouts as long as they went to a custodial wallet or in otherwords a wallet with a KYC. Here is what they said about this situations.
"In a similar vein, many users have asked whether—instead of having to connect a custodial account—it will be possible to connect Brave Wallet directly to Brave Rewards, and receive BAT payouts directly to one’s Brave Wallet addresses. This is a future we’d welcome and are continuing to explore. However, in order to comply with current financial regulations (such as FinCEN and OFAC requirements, or equivalent regulators outside the United States), payouts at this time must first go through a regulated custodian."
For users like me who have a Gemini account connected to their Brave Rewards it will not have much or an effect however to those in the unsupported regions it sucks. While not nessisarily the same it reminds me of when Brave had to remove the BAT earning feature from iOS versions (iPhone and iPad) while they were able to keep it around for Andriod due Apple's stupid App Store rules. One thing that could really help solve this soon to be apparent gap in service would be to get someone like Coinbase or even a Binance who has widespread licenses to plug the gap. I have no idea what this would take and if these companies end up trying to get Brave to pay them for the support but at least at face value it seems to be a solution that will really help.
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