Would You Rather Mine Cryptos or View A Few Ads?

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Last week we published an article on The Pirate Bay (TPB) stealing user’s CPU power to mine Monero, and we wanted to give the other side of the argument. In the case of TPB, the way it’s gone about stealing CPU power to mine Monero is quite unethical, especially given the fact it set the threshold to 0.9 (90%) – this could cause a lot of issues. However, there is a growing case for websites to run these miners in the background, especially when the site offers free content.

Uptake in Adblock Usage

Statistics show that there were roughly 615 million devices with an adblocker installed during December 2016. Following the modern trend of more mobile users accessing the web, 62% of those installs were on mobile devices. The increased prevalence of adblocker software is damaging the revenue streams of online businesses such as TPB. It is estimated that by the end of 2018, almost 30% of all web traffic will be using a form of adblocker. This is a real problem for websites that offer free content, as advert revenue streams are decreasing heavily. This is driving sites that offer free content to reassess their income streams.

Along Came Crypto

As the prevalence of adblockers grew, so did the popularity of cryptocurrencies. It wasn’t long before companies were leveraging the underlying technology and processes behind cryptocurrencies to earn revenue. Interestingly, TPB was one of the first to implement a secret crypto mining script into its pages. It placed its first mining script into the website code back in early 2017 and was met with a torrent of abuse from its loyal community of users.
Cryptocurrencies rely on networks of miners to function. When a cryptocurrency transaction is announced to a blockchain network, computers on that network begin solving complex mathematical puzzles to confirm the currency has not already been used. This is known as mining. In exchange for the work, miners rewarded a small amount of cryptocurrency.
Some cryptocurrencies are harder to mine and require special hardware, like an ASIC miner or GPU rig. However, some have a lower difficulty level and can be mined relatively fast and without special mining equipment – such as Monero and Dash. It is these coins that these scripts steal CPU power to mine. If you’re looking to start mining Bitcoin, the BetterHash protocol might be something you’re interested in using.

Trading CPU Power for Free Content Isn’t Necessarily Bad

When you think about it, if you never have to see pesky ads on your favorite sites again without paying for the service, sounds like a pretty good deal, right? All you have to give in return is a little bit of your CPUs unused power to help the website keep producing fresh content and pay its bills. Websites such as Salon.com already run this system, whereby users are asked when landing on the site if they are happy to give up some spare CPU power whilst they read articles. In return, users get an ad-free experience – everyone’s a winner. As long as CPU threshold – the amount of CPU power taken – is kept to a maximum of 50%, mining crypto on a PC or laptop can be relatively unobtrusive for the users and lucrative for the website.

Stealing is Wrong and Always Will Be

Offering users the option to see ads or mine crypto would be the most ideal situation for websites to head down. But, if they feel ads aren’t bringing in enough money, it’s always better to offer users to opt out of crypto mining. Think of it like GDPR but for CPU usage. If a site starts abusing its users and stealing CPU power from them, these sites could soon find themselves losing their loyal user base. There are a variety of sites out there that will give websites script to put in their website, and they all recommend letting the users know they are mining crypto – not cool TPB.

Staying Clear of Ads and Miners

If you really want to steer clear of ads and cryptominers, there are a few methods. Most adblockers will remove all ads and prevent mining scripts from running. However, some mining scripts can get around the adblocker protection. If you want to be extra safe, you can install a script blocker in addition to an adblocker. There are some downsides to this though. The script blocker could prevent some websites from displaying properly and functioning at all. For the script miner on TPB, a simple adblocker will prevent this from running, where as on Salon.com their system will still offer you the choice to run their miner.