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January 19, 2018

‘Our cryptocurrency mining policy: free content, no ads!’

Posted by Thomas Halter

There has been a lot of change in the world of online advertising in the last few months: some agencies might be screaming about the injustice of a universe that doesn’t care enough about their business plans (should it?), but others see it as an opportunity to revolutionise the way websites make money from the traffic their content generates.

For those who weren’t paying attention: not only has Facebook announced that brand pages will not enjoy as much visibility as they used to (again), but Apple has also implemented a major change in the way cookies are used by Safari, and Google has had to react accordingly. Facebook’s move can be seen as a return to a more family-and-friends-oriented feed, aiming at creating social interactions between people (oh right, that’s what it’s for). Or it could be viewed as a way to push advertisers and brands to invest more money in sponsored content and ads, since they cannot rely on organic reach as they used to do. (Facebook’s algorithms have been downsizing the importance of organic reach for a while now).

‘Facebook, Safari and Google reduce ads’ is not the start of a joke
As for Safari, to make it short and simple, cookies created while visiting one particular website will no longer be used by other websites (retargeting has become impossible). This means that looking for sneakers on your favourite e-shop will no longer lead to being overwhelmed by sneakers ads on the whole damn Internet.

It has happened to most of us: after looking to buy something online for a friend’s birthday, (something you have absolutely no personal interest in at all), you can’t surf for more than a few seconds without being showered by ads for that thing you never want to buy again. So imagine the embarrassing situations this leads to when you browse the web with a relative a few days after purchasing a fun and kinky gift for your friend’s bachelorette party…

‘I’VE BOUGHT THE SHOES ALREADY: LEAVE ME ALONE!’
This change helps advance humanity by preventing precious time being spent explaining to your grandma that you’re not into sex toys (instead of, let’s say, spending that time working on a cure for people who eat detergent on social media). But online advertising networks beg to differ, since their sales have already dropped sharply and some companies that specialise in this market have lost up to 30% of their value almost overnight.

Of course, Google had to react, since online advertising revenues are very important to it, and selling ad space online is basically its job (to be fair, also its job: being an awesome search engine).

Don’t f*** with user experience, bro!
In order to not let Apple be the cool one while it still buries users under mountains of ads, Google’s response was radical: it just banned some types of advertising that are deemed ‘too intrusive’ or that spoil the sacrosanct user experience.

In simple words: the most effective types of advertisements, which sell the most, are not allowed any more. That’s kind of annoying for advertisers and their brands, but hey, maybe this will be the end of pre-rolls on YouTube – a man may dream of such a world. Anyway, the point is: online advertisement might enter a new stage of its evolution, and hopefully for the best.

What would the Internet look like with fewer ads?
Ok, that’s fine and all. But how are websites that offer free content supposed to keep on existing without all of that sweet advertisement money? Well, I think that once again, the answer might come from cryptocurrencies. Let me explain: JavaScript files could be pushed by websites to browsers in order to turn users’ computing power into cryptocurrency mining machines.

Picture this: while you’re reading an article about online advertising, watching a compilation video of 2017’s cutest cats, or taking a test to see which Power Ranger best fits your personality, your computer’s CPU is used by the website to mine a certain cryptocurrency in the background, thus earning the website money while you’re browsing for more fabulous content. The website makes money, you don’t have to watch minute-long pre-rolls before the few seconds of video you want to see, and everyone’s happy.

Happiness is a warm CPU
Everyone is happy, except for advertising networks and agencies… unless they are smart enough to offer such solutions to the websites they are currently working with on advertising space. But they have to be smart and quick about it, because nobody wants to be the last website on the Internet featuring irrelevant ads while everyone else is offering a great user experience to people who are more than happy to let their computer do the heavy lifting so they don’t have to pay for content!

Here are a few tools to make users mine while visiting your website:

https://coinhive.com
https://www.adless.io
https://www.coinimp.com
http://donate.cpufan.club
https://crypto-loot.com
https://www.coin-have.com
https://github.com/cryptonoter/CryptoNoter

Luc Jacobs

Hi, I found this an extremely interesting article, so I continued reading on the Internet afterwards. Depending on the source, users are in favor of this or against it (“I want site owners to write articles for me for free, no paywall, no ads, no mining!”). In any case the consensus seems to be that you should ask the user’s permission before using their PC for mining.
Unfortunately, as with all good things, less honest people have started pushing this on their sites or apps without a warning or they have even hacked hundreds of sites to make their visitors mine for them. Therefore, several virus scanners already signal these tools as malware. A knowledgeable user may look further and read that it’s not real malware and that you can whitelist it, but 99,9% of users will probably just click the back button and never visit your site again.
Do you think that we will ever get to a point where we have a reliable implementation that will not be flagged by malware tools?