Cryptocurrency mining could be the next wave in internet monetization.

While the 2017 crypto bubble has turned into a drawn out 2018 slide, a new specter has entered the web monetization scene, in-browser cryptocurrency mining. Hackers have started using unprotected websites to hijack users computing power. They do this by adding in-browser cryptocurrency mining code to the websites javascript files. The hacked websites visitors’ are then used to mine cryptocurrency for the hackers. While today these in-browser miners are dangerous malware, I think this could be the start of a shift in internet monetization.

Internet advertising and affiliate marketing have been the major players in the monetization of web content, creating behemoths like Facebook and Google. Most websites’ first step is to sign up for AdSense and run banner ads. In their quest to maximize ad revenue Google and Facebook have launched immense tracking operations, in which they record every page view people make. Using this data, profiles are created about web users and their attention is auctioned off in the form of targeted ad views.

In-browser Cryptocurrency mining provides an alternative to the targeted ad economy. Web admins simply integrate their site with a javascript file that automatically mines cryptocurrency inside the browser. This mining process creates ‘hashes’ which can be added to a mining pool and redeemed for tokens. Essentially, the visitor lends their cpu power to the website owner and contributes hashes worth a few pennies in the process of reading a blog post. Depending on how the software is integrated you could be required to contribute a certain number of hashes before being allowed to view a webpage or download a video. Websites can monitor how many hashes a user has contributed and block their requests if they fail to contribute.

Previously, Brandon Eich’s company Brave has created an ‘attention token’ which is a centrally controlled coin integrated into their browser that pays websites on a per-pageview basis. The downside of this payment method is that it relies on subscriptions and ads as its money source. You can earn attention tokens by watching ads after all! In-browser mining of cpu-optimized cryptocurrencies is a truly decentralized way for users to pay to view content. Its been hard to get internet users to care enough to pay 1-10 cents per page view even if they would be willing to pay there isn’t a payment system that could benefit off of such small transactions. That is why ads have done so well, its much easier to put up with ads than to buy a subscription and no one really cares enough about a penny to pull our their credit card.

In-browser mining solves the ‘too small to care’ problem by providing a way for users to pay web owners tiny amounts of money without needing to pull out their credit cards. Processing tiny credit card transactions would be prohibitively expensive, but lending website owners the cpu power that users already own is much easier.

Monero is the cryptocurrency of choice for in-browser mining today because it is optimized for cpu mining. Its governing structure includes regular hard forks and it has been announced that Monero will hard fork its mining algorithm whenever ASICS that can mine it are released. Monroe and other new more flexible cryptocurrencies can ensure that in-browser mining remains worthwhile compared to datacenter mining with ASIC or GPU hardware.

The reason I am excited about in-browser mining is because it counter-acts miner centralization, one of the major risks for cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin mining is dominated by massive data centers in China which use subsidized electricity. In-browser mining is a way to involve every website in cryptocurrencies while providing a tracking free web experience and making it easy for internet users to contribute value back to content providers.