Last month news first broke out that some websites and companies have been mining the cryptocurrency Monero (XMR) while exploiting the computer power of innocent, unsuspecting users. Some websites, like Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) YouTube, used advertisements that secretly mine Monero while users watch videos. Other instances are of malware forced by hackers onto hijacked government computers and millions of Android smartphones. But now the progressive online publication Salon (OTCQB: SLNM) is offering readers a user experience choice: either disable in-browser ad blockers or allow Salon to use the reader’s device to mine Monero in the background. Although unprecedented and bold for the journalism industry, Salon’s marketing move could introduce more people to Monero and the broader cryptocurrency world.
Monero is one of the first ever created privacy cryptos. The highly fungible, open source, decentralized currency was created in April 2014, with the original idea published by the pseudonymous Nicolas van Saberhagen. It currently commands a price around $300, a $4.7 billion market capitalization ranked thirteenth of all coins, and a circulating supply of 15.7 million. It uses the CryptoNight proof-of-work hash algorithm, which is designed to be resistant to application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) mining, unlike Bitcoin and some other minable coins. Monero can be mined by graphics cards (GPUs) and computer processors (CPUs). Mining is a process in which computing power is used to solve extremely difficult mathematical problems for the chance to obtain block rewards in cryptocurrency.
Monero is an awesome privacy coin because it operates an opaque, untraceable blockchain. It uses ring signatures to allow senders to hide their transaction outputs among others, randomized stealth addresses to obscure receiving addresses of transactions, and a view key and spend key that can be separately shared to protect against surveillance. Therefore, Monero has become the crypto of choice for transacting illicit activity on the Dark web as well as malicious embedding of mining code into websites and apps.
Salon’s beta program explains that it, like other media companies, needs to earn revenue online. Ad blockers like uBlock, AdBlock, and Ghostery disable websites’ ability to make money from ads. When a reader using an ad blocker visits Salon’s website, a popup appears that asks the reader to either disable their ad blocker and refresh the page or opt-in to allow Salon to run Coinhive, a program that uses the reader’s unused computing power to mine Monero. Buttons that read “learn more” help readers weigh the pros and cons behind each choice and learn about CPU mining.
Salon’s test run comes at a critical time when digital media firms are losing ad revenue, thanks to savvy readers and sophisticated ad blockers. Its clever program could possibly be good for both itself and Monero fans. By introducing Monero to readers who otherwise would not have learned about it, Salon is basically giving exposure to the crypto. And Salon itself is rather optimistic and bullish on blockchain tech, stating that it plans to “further use any earnings to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology, digital currencies and other ways to better service the value exchange between content and user contribution.”
The bold move by Salon, if successful, will likely incentivize other news media websites to offer readers the choice between allowing ads and lending computing power. The only danger to Monero fans and investors is that if Salon is very successful in mining Monero from its readers and sells the coins on exchanges immediately, then there might be downward pressure on price in the short-term. But that should be outweighed by the positive exposure Salon is giving Monero.
The author does not hold any positions in any of the securities above.