AMA with Joel Reis and Sergey Zhukovsky

by | Jan 31, 2019 | AMA, Community

Welcome to the twelfth post in our series of BAT Community-run AMAs.

The ongoing AMA series on Reddit is a seven-month-long event that features various guests from the Brave and BAT teams. The goal of the series is twofold: to give fans of the project an opportunity to interact directly with team members, and to give team members—especially those who operate largely behind the scenes—a chance to share their insights and offer the community a window into their work.

The most recent AMA took place on January 30th and featured Joel Reis, Senior Software Engineer for iOS, and Sergey Zhukovsky, Senior Software Engineer for Android at Brave. Joel and Serg fielded both pre-submitted and live questions from Redditors concerning a variety of topics, like the main differences between implementing browser features on mobile and desktop, and how frequently the two mobile teams collaborate. The pair also shared what they love most about working at Brave, and offered advice on the best ways to keep up with the ever-evolving tech landscape: “Practice in it” and “Focus on something you care about,” recommends Serg. According to Joel, “Drinking more coffee” is the key.

Highlights can be found below, with a link to the full AMA at the bottom of this post.

For the full list of upcoming BAT Community AMAs through March 2019, see below.

Secinem30: What are the three biggest factors holding Brave back from achieving mainstream adoption?

Joel: Well on iOS it is most certainly Apple's default browser restrictions. Not allowing users to set a default browser other than Safari is saddening to me. Generally speaking, I think it is partially familiarity and partly fatigue or skepticism of sorts. People are often resistant to “new”, which is honestly understandable. Technology changes so blazing fast, many users like to wait and see if things stick around. In our case, if Brave is “for real”. We are growing, and the future looks bright. I believe when people start seeing that we have a deep investment in them and truly desire to give them more control over their online footprint, adoption will start to solve itself (e.g. word to mouth as a key area of adoption).

That being said, we are constantly invested in increasing adoption, improving our message, educating users, and expanding our functionality. We are not passively waiting for a magic cat to slide in on a rainbow, although, that’d be pretty cool and probably trend well. 🌈😸

For a third. Maybe a few key features that we need to land. Syncing data between platforms is a big one. However, this is point should be outdated very soon 😉

I’m not sure if I gave you the “biggest”, but those are the ones I wanted to talk about 😆

What do you think are some of our biggest limiting factors?

Serg: - Fear of something new;

  • No transparent schema of how it works. We are simplifying things. With our current Brave Rewards implementation, people who were not involved in the crypto space before can easily create a wallet—we give grants there from our UGP. Auto-contributions are done automatically, we are working on that.
  • Not enough knowledge of what tracking and privacy actually are.

LauraFuentes_LoL: Is it harder to integrate the Brave ads system into a mobile device than it is for desktop? And how will the ads be shown to the consumer (on mobile)?

Serg: I wouldn't say it's harder, it just should be consistent with other mobile-specific things, such as UI appearance, performance of course (desktops are faster) and several other limitations. We will use push notifications.

Joel: Mostly just different. iOS is a bit of a black sheep here, since Android and Desktop are both built on Chromium. Thankfully we have a common, shared library we can utilize, however, user attention measuring and some of those things will need to be rebuilt in iOS. We have recently started putting in some serious effort on this, and are excited to see this Brave Rewards come together on mobile.

willchristiansen: What has been your favorite part about working at Brave and your favorite functionality that you've built so far?

Joel: I really enjoy the team here. Lots of experience and knowledge to go around. Passionate coworkers who truly care about Brave and increasing security and privacy for our users. I think many of us are eager to see a control shift that gives normal people more control over their information. Brave is playing a part in this story, and I’m glad to play a role in Brave’s part.

Also, my boss drinks coffee like a machine, so that’s kind of fun. Engineering teams being highly distributed is delightful. My 3 closest coworkers all live in different countries from myself, which increases general working flexibility. I have a job I adore and also a personal life to live.

About favorite functionality. I think I am honestly most excited about the future. Brave Rewards, syncing between platforms, and a few other surprises, then I am anything I have previously helped build.

Serg: The best part is to produce something new, like we do with Brave Rewards. The functionality I like the most is our common libraries that we use across all our platforms.

aur3l1us: Say a mobile game publisher wants to promote their game via Brave Ads on mobile. A user downloads the app and the their unique device ID (and seemingly other identifiable info) would be known to the advertiser, right? Would the anonymity of the Brave mobile user be lost at that point?

Joel: Nope, in fact, the user is even anonymous to Brave! The workflow is slightly different on each platform, but no personal identifiable information is ever given to a publisher, and Brave also does not know who you are either. No user-unique codes/IDs are utilized for ads, or referrals.

Joelmartinez: How do you anticipate publishers will find value in acquiring BATs (through payments from guests)? Primarily via selling BATs on the open crypto markets?

Joel: tl;dr: Pubs ❤️💰

Publishers are always looking for new income streams, and they find paths of least resistance. Publishers are also hungry right now. I think there are many reasons for this, including difficulty scaling and monetizing ads, however just seeing a handful of our partnerships is a solid example of the mutually beneficial potential here (for users, publishers, and Brave). Partnerships with companies like Dow Jones/Market Watch, and our latest with Cheddar (and more to come), reveals the level of benefit Brave and BAT can provide to publishers.

Working with Uphold, publishers can already sell BAT for FIAT, and hopefully this process will only get smoother as time goes on.

Serg: Exactly. That's the way publishers can earn money.

DetectiveStogus: Is there an approximate time for the TOR functionality on IOS? How about cookie control functionality (Accept all cookies, block third party, block all cookies)?

Joel: We have had conversations about TOR, but no real work has been put into planning it out or even scheduling it. We have a lot of larger initiatives being worked on, like syncing data between platforms and Brave Rewards. TOR is an item I am excited about, it will just take a bit of time to get there.

As far as cookie controls go, fortunately, I just ate all of the cookies. You’re welcome. 🍪🍽🍪

Additionally, iOS 1.8 will include the option to block all cookies, and by default Brave currently utilizes Apple’s ITP technology (via webkit) to block invasive 3rd party cookies. Fine tuning cookie control mechanisms is something we are looking into, but there are some limitations here.

Stayscheminngg: Are you still hopeful on ETH or is there a chance of porting over to another chain?

Serg: Yes, we are still good with Ethereum network. We are not looking on another chain, but it could be if we see some kind of alarm signals related to ETH.

Joel: I think ETH is still the best option for us. There are some scaling considerations when dealing with micro transactions, but there are also potential solutions like payment channels. Obviously, Brave is committed to doing what we feel is best for our users, and switching to an ERC20 (from BTC), has certainly been the right choice. When dealing with blockchain tech, we definitely don’t want to be chasing unproven technology on a whim.

Like always, we are constantly monitoring what is going on though.

investorpatrick: When tipping via "Likes" is implemented, are there plans for a default Tip amount when you hit "Like". Looking at GitHub it seems like a 3 step process, with an optional 4th step Hit Like Select Amount Hit Send Tip Make Monthly (Optional) Could it be streamlined? i.e User can select their default "Like" amount. So whenever they hit Like it is always of the value USD 0.02? instead of the above multi-step process.

Serg: Thank you very much for the feedback. All of that is under development still and we are changing things. User experience is very important to us. I will pass that to our design and product teams.

Joel: As u/SergGz mentioned, We’re always open to UIUX input, I would recommend popping over to our Brave Rewards community site though and creating a post there. This will facilitate a better and more full conversation about this, and will allow you to provide additional thoughts if product teams have follow up questions/thoughts.

dragespir: When rolling out a new feature into mobile, do the iOS and Android teams collaborate with each other to plan for a unified feature set across mobile? Or do they treat the platforms separately and have different features? Because I’ve noticed Android has gotten the “Play in background” feature while iOS doesn’t have it yet!

Serg: We are going to make it like that in the feature. The problem is that iOS and Android browser have diff code bases. Sometimes there are limitations. We will do the parity related to the UI this year.

Joel: We often attempt to keep larger product initiatives parallel, but our platforms are quite different. Android is based on Chromium, and inherit many different features from there, while iOS was originally forked from Firefox. Many smaller features our teams often work independently, to help focus on those products strengths, weaknesses, or expectations.

As far as "Play in Background", iOS has some big video improvements coming in Q2 of this year 🤞, so keep an eye out of some of those larger changes.

u/dkong1026: What are the most effective ways (for you / in your opinion) to keep up with the ever evolving tech ecosystem / landscape? The crypto space moves fast and there are many dev frameworks to keep up with!

Serg: The most effective way is to practice in it. It's barely possible nowadays to know every framework, every approach. The best thing I would recommend is to pick a really favorite field and work on that. The other things are always could be learnt when they are needed.

Joel: Drink more coffee ☕️☕️☕️☕️

This is always an ongoing battle. For Brave, we have a dedicated research team, that spends significant time investigating web technologies, fine tuning performance, blazing new trails, and identifying changes in trends. They have been very helpful in helping improve ad-blocking on iOS, by web crawlers to identify ad-blocking rules we can exclude, and are currently building out technology to drastically improve web performance via SpeedReader (https://brave.com/speed-reader/).

On a more personal level, I find keeping up with just the cryptocurrency space (or even subcategories like cryptocurrency-economics) is pretty much unfeasible. I find one the best ways for me, is talking with knowledgeable people, preferably while drinking coffee. These people can often sift through the noise for me (even without knowing it), and often focus on the bigger items. I will occasionally attempt to drill into something specific (e.g. lightning network) and spend substantial time understanding the intricacies and sides. Like anything this combination gives a good breadth, while proving depth in specific areas.

Read the full AMA here.

Read Tom Lowenthal’s AMA from January 16th, here.

Follow the BAT Community’s Updates here: https://www.reddit.com/r/BATProject/

Upcoming BAT Community AMAs:

February 2019
Ben Livshits, Chief Scientist

March 2019
Marshall Rose, Senior Software Engineer
Catherine Corre, Head of Communications
Holli Bohren, Chief Financial Officer

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