Cryptojacking, the New Advertising Alternative for Ruthless Webmasters

in crypto •  3 months ago

In recent years we have been plagued by an ever-worsening ads situation and clutter on websites, in as much that not only have ad blockers become very popular but Apple even proceeded to try to block tracking cookies in its Safari browser in both macOS and iOS.

Coding by Joshua Sortino

Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Recently many online publishers have suffered a large drop in advertising revenue and needed to show creativity in order to improve the income of their websites. Many have switched to native advertising and/or paywalls. But tehre's a new kid on the block.

Recently a new trend emerged, brought in the mainstream spotlight when popular torrent site the Pirate Bay tested it: web browser coin miners.

What is a web browser coin miner?

A web browser coin miner is a small script webmasters can put in the code of their site and which hijack CPU or GPU computing cycles from each user. Whenever a user visits a website with a miner installed, the coin miner will activate and start mining coins with the site visitor's device.

A computing resource hijack by a website, also named cryptojacking.

Ever since TPB tested its implementation the debate over whether this application is ethical or not has been raging. Most popular ad blockers have even moved to block the more common crypto-miner scripts and even popular script provider Coinhive has expressed it will insist on opt-in only implementations.

“We will verify this opt-in on our servers and will implement it in a way that it can not be circumvented. We will pledge to keep the opt-in intact at all times, without exceptions,” the Coinhive team previously noted.

Not many websites have implemented an opt-in only method so far though and many new coin mining scripts work on the principle of opt-out only.

EU citizens will undoubtedly look forward to a ruling by the European Court on this topic, and an additional banner on websites, at some point in some years.

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How Big is The Threat or Is This Typical Tech Site FUD?

It is difficult to estimate how many website owners may be tempted by the appeal of earning additional revenue, or maybe even going ads-free because of crypto-mining revenue, but the threat is a real one considering that even CBS was rumored to run one in September on its online property. As such it is safe to say that large website operators, with many thousands of unique visitors daily, will at the very least look into the opportunity.

adblock doesn't like CoinHive

Adblock doesn't like Coinhive either

Whether crypto-miners or cryptojacking, will become a mainstream implementation will mostly depend on the raging debate about whether it is ethical to hijack a user computing cycles, thus causing website visitors additional costs due to the increased power consumption of their devices.

Being less than 3 months old, the Coinhive has already distributed close to $300,000 earnings to its users, that despite all ad) block measures taken against its scripts, which resulted even in intervention and a ban by Cloudflare. Coinhive takes 30% of all coins mined with its script as well.

Ad blocker blacklist operators will need to stay alert and constantly update their blacklist as such revenue numbers undoubtedly guarantee a future increase in number of available scripts to webmasters. If there's money to be made, the Internet will make money, with or without shame.

Personally, we are against this practice and in a recent article already expressed our dismay at such practices by witness @dragosroua, when we found a crypto-miner on steem tool Steem.supply.

As a pro-user warrior, we struggle to promote projects which unsolicitedly hijack CPU cycles. Which is a pity because we actually do like Steem.supply’s functionality a lot.

Then again, we also use ad blockers. Not because we think ads are necessarily bad, but we couldn't care less about the horrible tracking behavior of most ads networks.

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If you're a website operator or online publisher, are you considering the option of integrating a coin-miner script?

If you're a user, do you care or aren't you bothered because you're hiding safely behind your ad blocker anyway?

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Nice graphic haha! I don't actually use an ad-blocker :) I feel like if it's not so intrusive, it doesn't sound so bad. But from what I can tell they get quite greedy and really make your computer work. Anyway, this kind of thing should never be without a choice from the user, it's quite obnoxious, especially when it noticeably bogs down the end user experience.