Earlier this year, Gab.com, a social media site akin to Twitter with added emphasis on freedom of speech, began to roll out their Dissenter platform. Last month, they sparked buzz by integrating a forked version of the open-source Brave web browser. This move has strong implications for BAT and other utility tokens in the crypto space.
Gab and its operators have not proven to by shy of the spotlight, having historically situated itself in conversations about Twitter crackdowns as a beacon for freedom of speech in a bite-sized, social media setting akin its competitor. So far, it’s persisted primarily as a site catering to right wing ideologists, and hasn’t seen much activity outside of this radical niche.
However, the team at Gab has been very productive in improving their site and expanding their offerings. Earlier this year, they launched Dissenter, a web browser extension that claims to act as “the comment section of the internet”. Through the Dissenter application, users can place and view comments on anything, on any page across the web. So long as no laws are broken through said comments, there is no moderation of what is published.
Brave Browser Controversy
Recently, the developers at Gab forked the open-source Brave browser software to integrate into their own project. Upon taking the code to use in their own development, they elected to eliminate the BAT functionality of the software. On Brave, users are rewarded in ERC-20 BAT tokens for their attention, which they can then send to content creators they frequent. On Dissenter, attention rewards and payments will instead utilize Bitcoin Lightning Network micro-payments.
The use of the open-source software and replacement of the utility token in favor of Bitcoin has massive ideological implications in regards to the development direction of “one utility one token”. Beyond just Bitcoin maximalists, many across the space have expressed concerns on the use of unique tokens for different utilities.
While independent tokens might be the most worthwhile to the project developers, it massively diminishes the utility and ease of access to the service they provide. Single utility tokens represent much smaller markets and therefore possess higher volatility. This is a huge problem for users of the utility- if they are using a service to save money and the tokens they purchase devalue significantly, the savings from the service likely don’t outweigh the investment losses.
BAT is one such example of a utility token created for one specific use case. In replacing BAT with BTC, the idea that the utility needs its token is heavily contested. If Dissenter takes up a lot of Brave’s activity from users who would prefer not to deal in BAT, it may lead to a surge of projects forking code to remove utility tokens from a competitor.
And with such a precedent in place, the project creators themselves are left between a rock and a hard place. They can take their code private, so that they can’t get forked by competitors, but that eliminates the values of transparency and decentralization, which diminishes the need for a cryptocurrency. Alternatively, they can leave their code open source, where they may find their project slip out of their fingers as their token is made obsolete.
In a perfect cryptocurrency world, where funding and resources are not an issue, these projects may certainly all power themselves through the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum. But as we know, this is not the case, and the implications of the Dissenter versus Brave drama could put a lot of worthwhile and meaningful developments in danger.