Seth wrote a lengthy and descriptive post outlining the service for all participants on Transparent Bundles. The core service leverages the Attention Trust Recorder, which can be installed by an internet user (currently firefox only). Root.net calls users “consumers”.
The recorder tracks everything you do with your browser (it can be turned off at will, and root.net allows deletion of data you’ve recorded that you want to remove).
As a consumer you get two primary benefits – the ability to see your own data (see screen shot), and the ability to trade your data to other parties for some benefit – like more targeted advertising that you will actually find useful. This is something John Battelle writes about extensively in his book, by the way.
Publishers can also use the root.net system to generate leads, which can be sold to advertisers. Root.net also has anticipated arbitrage players, which they call “investors”, who will purchase leads from publishers and sell them to advertisers. The goal, of course, is to create a more liquid market.
I understand at least part of how it is intended to work. An internet user clicks on an ad and fills out a form, becoming a lead that is owned by the publisher. These leads can be sold to advertisers and investors in a liquid market
This is a big idea. It will take a lot of pushing to get it off the ground, but if it works it will redefine online advertising and lead generation.