Browser Cryptocurrency Mining: The End of Website Ads?

Visiting a website? Be sure to check your CPU usage. You might be part of a clandestine browser cryptocurrency mining operation without your knowledge.

The Pirate Bay

This is what users of torrent site The Pirate Bay (TPB) discovered recently. In a move to eradicate reliance on ad income revenue, in September the website took to installing a Javascript cryptocurrency miner designed to bag the company some Monero coins. The script allocates central processing units to the mining of cryptocurrency.

TPB – a Bitcoin user since the cryptocurrency’s earliest days and a crypto pioneer in the torrent business – implemented said tool for the monetization abilities it offers.

According to crypto miner tool Coinhive, owner of the script tool used by TPA, participating businesses can benefit from their services through eliminating ads and generating on-site monetization.

Coinhive cryptocurrency mining

During this TPB test period, The Monero javascript miner was not implemented site-wide, and implemented served as a test to ascertain the viability – and the income potential, naturally – of replacing site ads. With a lot of the site’s advertisers specializing in pornography, this is seen as a positive move by some users. The company explained:

“As you may have noticed we are testing a Monero javascript miner. This is only a test. We really want to get rid of all the ads. But we also need enough money to keep the site running.”

 

On Reddit, comments were generally positive, although there was a call for greater upfront transparency.

Pirate Bay Cryptocurrency Mining Reddit comment Pirate Bay Cryptocurrency Mining Reddit comment Pirate Bay Cryptocurrency Mining Reddit comment Pirate Bay Cryptocurrency Mining Reddit comment Pirate Bay Cryptocurrency Mining Reddit comment

 

Now, TPB has once again taken to employing a Monero script – this time seemingly without providing users with the option to opt out.

ShowTime

If you’re thinking this is the sort of thing that happens when you download anything from movies to ebooks illegally, Pirate Bay was not the first, nor would it be the last. CBS subsidiary, satellite television station ShowTime has also been mining for Monero.

ShowTime cryptocurrency mining

A Twitter user first noticed that something was amiss with his CPU usage while accessing the site. This was quickly confirmed as being related to the Pirate Bay incident, with people surmising that a similar script is being employed by the cable station. The script was removed from the website shortly thereafter.

Since the company released no official statement on the matter, it is unclear whether it was a move made thanks to organisational decision making-channels, or if in thanks to an independent action by an overeager employee.

Coinhive is coin-happy

The company behind the mining script, Coinhive was pleased with the script’s performance during its first week in late September.

Coinhive cryptocurrency mining performance statistics

According to the company blog:

“Our goal was to offer a viable alternative to intrusive and annoying ads that litter so many websites today. These ads are not only a distraction to end users, but also provide notoriously unpredictable and non-transparent revenue numbers. We set out to change that.

 

The revenue you receive from Coinhive is easily predictable and our payouts are now fully automated and initiated 12 times a day. We don’t hold your money hostage for months on end like so many ad networks do. So we delivered on that part already.”

500 million miners

Popular adblock software AdGuard analyzed the top 100 thousand websites in the world according to the Alexa ranking they hold. Looking for mining scripts, they found that 220 of these sites had this installed. The mining would affect an estimated 500 million internet users, most of whom are blissfully unaware that their computers act as cryptocurrency mining tools. The company estimated that in the span of 3 weeks, websites would have earned an average of US$43,000 in joint profit.

Cryptocurrency Mining stats AdGuardInterestingly, AdGuard is not opposed to the use of cryptocurrency mining scripts by popular websites.

Browser cryptocurrency mining opinion AdGuardThe company states:

“This is why we propose not to relegate cryptocurrency mining to the dark side by blocking it. We should harness this young and vigorous beast for our own common good.”

Are we seeing the first marks of what will be a new era beyond pesky ads that do little more than being annoying, not to mention offering a hit-and-miss success rate for the advertiser?

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.