The recent surge in cryptocurrency prices could give website administrators a new way to monetize and allow them to get rid of annoying banner ads. This potentially less intrusive revenue source is called “passive cryptocurrency mining.” It enables a site to levy the power of a user’s machine to mine currency. However, abuse of the technology, often referred to as browser cryptojacking, needs to stop first.
Several websites have recently been caught using a cryptocurrency miner on their site without notifying or asking for users’ consent first. What this small piece of code does is force the CPUs of visitors to the site to mine the cryptocurrency Monero for the site owners. Monero is, ironically, focused on user privacy and security, but it is the coin of choice for these miner scripts as it’s the most popular coin that can be mined on your CPU.
Reactions came quickly when users of some of the websites in question started noticing sudden CPU spikes and no one had disclosed what was going on or asked for permission to use their CPU.
Although controversial moves like these are bad publicity for Coinhive and Crypto-Loot, the developers behind two of the most popular miner scripts, and for crypto in general, this could be a step in the right direction towards a potentially ad-free browsing experience.
However, Coinhive is working on a new version of its script that it says “requires an explicit opt-in from the end user to run.” This is a good call that will force less ethical website owners to be more honest with their users. It will also help Coinhive distance itself from malware accusations.
These scripts, which I’m certain we’ll see more of as the cryptocurrency market cap continues to hit new highs, give website owners a less visually intrusive way to earn revenue than through ads. As long as I’m given the option to opt-out of offering my CPU power while I’m browsing a site, I’d much prefer this over trading my privacy for ads.
[Full disclosure: I have no interests in or relationships with any of the companies and projects I’ve mentioned in this post.]
Trond Vidar Bjorøy is head of product development and implementation – Nordics at travel management company ATPI. He became interested in blockchain due to its applications in the travel industry but now tracks ICOs and emerging blockchain projects across a variety of industries.