November 9, 2017    4 minute read

In-browser Cryptocurrency Mining: The Future of Online Advertising?

New Developments    November 9, 2017    4 minute read

In-browser Cryptocurrency Mining: The Future of Online Advertising?

2017 has been the year for cryptocurrencies. The value of bitcoin has risen from around $900 in January to over $7400 today. One of the unique aspects of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is how they are created. The process is known as mining, where computers solve mathematical problems to verify transactions before they are added to the blockchain. As a result, new coins are generated and rewarded to this miner.

Miners now have warehouses full of computers all using their extensive computing power to create new coins. Another cryptocurrency that is generated through mining is Monero.

How It Works

A new method of mining has been created to work on the Monero blockchain. Coinhive have developed a Javascript miner, which can be implemented into webpages. If the code is added to a website, the computing power from a visitor’s device is used to mine, and any Monero generated is given to the website owner.

This effectively acts as a form of advertising. Rather than having pictures and videos spread about the page, the user can offer the computing power of their PC or mobile and mine Monero for the website owner. The user is not required to register or click any specific links; they get to enjoy an ad-free experience. The website owner then has a new stream of revenue.

Its Uses and Limitations

The idea of browser mining has received mixed feedback. The Pirate Bay has implemented it into their website as a potential alternative to their traditional ad banners. However, users were not informed that their computing power was being used for mining and the website does not offer an opt-out option.

The code can also be maliciously installed onto a website, without the owner’s permission.  The website of CBS Showtime was found to have the Coinhive code implemented in it. Hackers had gained access to the website code and added the miner into it, so any user streaming TV from the site was also mining Monero for the hackers.

More recently, the UFC steaming service was found to have the Coinhive script in the website code. Again, the company claim they were not aware the code was added and it has now been removed.

The idea of browser mining is attractive to people who find adverts disturbing on websites. However, the amount of CPU used by each visitor is determined by the site owner when they add the code. If the user is using a mobile to visit the website, the mining could have an effect on their battery life and could cause their device to heat up. People using older computers could also find the computer slowing down whilst they are on the website.

The Future

The concept is still in an early adoption stage and Google is considering adding an extension into Chrome, which blocks cryptocurrency miners on websites. Whilst this is to help protect users from unwillingly offering their devices, one must also remember that Google’s AdSense software is used by over 14 million websites to provide adverts and generate revenue. The prospect of browser mining acts as competition to this lucrative business.

However, there is a lot of potential for the technology in the future, especially if websites were to offer it as an optional alternative to traditional advertising. If users were willing to offer their computing power to replace adverts, and if the website owner could be trusted to limit the computing power requested, the technology could be added into websites safely and form a new stream of revenue for website owners.

Even without widespread adoption, the concept of in-browser cryptocurrency mining simply highlights the potential cryptocurrencies have and how they can fit into peoples’ lives in different ways.

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