How cryptocurrencies could replace ads on the web forever

EDIT : 9 march 2019
Coinhive is now discontinuated as stated in their blog post, therefore this post may not be completely relevant anymore.

In a world where Adblockers thrives, what can we do to monetize web contents?

It's simple : Cryptocurrency mining.

There is this new service called Coinhive launched about 4 months ago that let you install a script on your website and this script will mine a cryptocurrency called Monero using the CPU of your visitors !

Those familiar with crypto mining will know that CPU mining is useless compared to GPU and ASIC mining. But not this one because Monero uses an hashing algorithm called CryptoNight that is specially designed to work best on CPUs and there is currently no special purpose device that can surpass a CPU significantly. So overall, this service makes sense and can be profitable.

The optimistic point of view

If you had to choose between displaying ugly ads on your website or including an invisible script that generates money, what would you choose ?

How often I've gone trough this dilema of feeling bad to use an adblocker on a website giving me useful content. And still not deactivating it because I don't want to see ads... Now I can donate a bit of my processing power in return for the content without any other sacrifice from my part. I'm perfectly okay with that !

In fact, I consider this to be the upgraded version of micro-donations to reward web content creators. This concept has been implemented by Flattr for quite some years already and at the beginning it was a button (much like a facebook like button) that web content creators had to put on their website. Now it's a chrome extension that automatically record which sites you visit to distribute your monthly donation proportionally to what you consumed. It's pretty cool. But you have to deposit money into this system, install a browser extension, etc. There is still too much steps for it to be seamless.

With cryptomining, the user has nothing to do manually. The cost of "micro-donations" ends up inside their electricity bill because it consume electricity to mine cryptos. It can't be more user friendly ! But the downside of it is that you cannot (yet) decide for whom you mine and for whom you prefer not to mine, which leads to my next paragraph...

The reality of internet

Sadly, this technology could also be used by hackers to generate profits from hacked websites. We already saw reports of ads served with cryptomining script on youtube, or wordpress plugins hiding a mining script inside of them. Its very easy to put that anywhere because it's hidden. Some adblockers has begun blocking those mining script as well.

Before it's too late

Before this whole idea goes to wastes, I hope services like Coinhive will limit the amount of CPU that can be used by their miner because right now, anyone could decide to use 100% of all CPU cores of their visitors to mine cryptos. This will be noticeable pretty fast by visitors because the CPU fan will go full speed while the computer may become laggy and not responsive.

Coinhive "recommends" using 70% of visitor's CPU but I consider this to be way too much ! I bet you haven't noticed it but I installed their miner on my blog and it currently uses 25% of your CPU power :) It's the ratio at which my CPU fan barely goes up in speed and I think is reasonable for you and for me.

So I hope Coinhive will limit the power of their invisible mining script. That won't stop hackers to install their own mining scripts but, at least if we can have one service that play fair and is trustable, chances are that this technology will stay and maybe one day ads will disappear completely !