Coinhive: A Crypto Miner for your Website

This past month I came across one of the most interesting applications of the blockchain that I’ve seen to date: https://coinhive.com.

The idea is simple: You get access to the CPU of your website’s visitors (in order to mine cryptocurrency) in exchange for providing access to your website’s content. Notably, The Pirate Bay announced that they are testing to see if Coinhive specifically will earn as much revenue per visitor as their display ads:

Miner

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.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Do you want ads or do you want to give away a few of your CPU cycles every time you visit the site?

Of course the mining can be blocked by a normal ad-blocker.

https://thepiratebay.org/blog/242

It remains to be seen whether or not the miner will be more profitable than display ads for The Pirate Bay, however, I am certain that website owners will also be considering how a JavaScript miner can be complementary to existing revenue channels, not just as a replacement. As noted on the Coinhive website, the service can also be used for two additional use cases:

  1. Spam protection, in the form of solving a hash, which would be an inconvenience equivalent to a computer attempting to automatically solve a CAPTCHA.
  2. Interstitial advertising, in the form of solving a hash before website content loads, similar to the full-page ads that visitors to Forbes and other prominent publications must view before viewing the content they are seeking.

 

Coinhive makes use of an alternative coin, Monero, which is designed with a mining theory, “Proof of Work”, that rewards miners for the time and energy used to correctly calculate hashes of blocks on the end of an ever growing chain. So, as the miner is left active on sites where users spend significant amounts of time, the miner is able to get to work and complete calculations for more lucrative hashes. Like the Coinhive site mentions, their services won’t make a relatively low traffic blog super valuable overnight, but for other sites with high traffic and extremely high engagement, this could be a welcome reprieve to chronically declining ad revenue. Finally, I believe Coinhive demonstrates that the blokchain is not just another silly over-hyped tech bubble; there can be real value when the technology is applied thoughtfully and tastefully.

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John Marbach

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09 2017

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