The Future of Monero and Online Mining
A quick recap:
In an earlier article I wrote about Monero, Coinhive and crypto-currency mining. At the time of writing that article, Bitcoin's value was skyrocketing, with no limit in sight. It was the height of the Bitcoin Bubble.
We know how that ended up. Bitcoin crashed, tumbled down faster Justin Trudeau's approval rating, and then stabilized. Investors that once supported the crypto-currency now consider it nothing short of gambling. This is, of course, ignoring the fact that it is still worth 760% more than it was this time last year. Had you had 1 BTC last year, you would have had $1290 USD. Today, that same Bitcoin would be worth about $11,400 USD. This is a far better investment than you can get with anything else in the market.
But we aren't talking about Bitcoin, we're talking about it's little brother -- or maybe even distant cousin -- Monero. Monero rode the success wave of Bitcoin, jumping up leaps and bounds into oblivion. But once Bitcoin crashed, so did Monero. Although it didn't fall nearly as fall or as dramatically, it still fell. But that isn't the only thing that happened to Monero.
What's Happening Now
Both Bitcoin, Monero and the thousand other crypto-currencies out there are recovering nicely from the crash. When I wrote my last article in December, one Monero was worth $255.60 USD. Now it's worth $375.94 USD. This is a 50% increase in value in only 3 months, which is still something you never see in the market. While the value of Monero is going up, the pressure has been increasing to stop the usage of mining it online.
When I finished my last article, mining online for Monero was still pretty new. Soon it became more and more popular. Large sites like YouTube, the LA Times and Pirate Bay began using it as an alternative to advertising. As it became more popular, virus-protecting software began alerting more and more people about it. Would you feel comfortable going on a site that your virus protecting gave you a warning about? No way.
Developers have since tried multiple workarounds. Instead of having it on a website, why not put the script in a browser extension? That way users can be doing anything online -- reading a blog, watching a video, ordering a pizza or buying socks -- and the script will be running in the background. They don't even have to be on the site for this to be happening! Other times, developers would create hidden "pop-ups" to appear behind the browser, that would close when the browser closes, running the script on an different location so that their site wouldn't be "flagged" by the virus-protection. Other developers put the code in mobile apps, running it off phones and tablets. There is limited virus protection on mobile devices and users wouldn't be surprised to see their favourite mobile game is draining their battery. As with anything, once something because "taboo", it becomes much more fun to try and get away with.
When news broke out this was happening, the media jumped on it. Headlines like "Cryptojacking craze that drains your CPU now done by 2,500 sites" began popping up, implying anybody that uses this script is some kind of hacker. Other sites claim 23% of all global organizations are effected by this "malware", with some even going far enough to say that Coinhive is the 6th most common malware out there.
But is crypto-currency mining really that bad? Even the virus-protection software companies are undecided. As Malwarebytes said: "We do not claim that CoinHive is malicious, or even necessarily a bad idea. The concept of allowing folks to opt-in for an alternative to advertising, which has been plagued by everything from fake news to malvertising, is a noble one. The execution of it is another story." It turns out Malwarebytes (and other companies too) don't mind the idea of crypto-currency mining, they just don't like it happening without user consent.
To work around this, Coinhive created an "opt-in" program that would give people the option to allow their computer to be mined. However, this is rarely used. Reports say about 40,000 people a day use the opt-in miner, while over 3,000,000 people use the silent miner. CoinHive says those numbers don't exactly reflect the truth though. Around 35% of all the Monero mined is done being the opt-in miner, even though opt-in users only make up 1.4%.
Some sites like Salon use CoinHive, but only as a backup to revenue generation if users have an adblocker installed. News outlets near and far are struggling to make ends meet, and the authenticity and reliability of news is threatened because of this. It's far too easy for news outlets to write clickbaity articles to get their bills paid than it is to write in-depth journalistic pieces. Salon's logic is, if users want to read their content but not help pay for them, then they can opt-in to have Monero mined on their site. This is an ethical alternative to something that is very much in the grey.
The Future of Monero
Like it or not, cryto-currency is now part of our lives. It's mined is small countries to give their economies more value, and tax-collection agencies have begun asking people to report their earnings for tax season. Houses can be bought and sold in Bitcoin, and online stores are starting to use implement different uses of it. As the demand -- and value -- of these currencies go up, people will always find ways to mine it. In the age of adblockers, this is the best alternative to revenue generation available. Until people either want for the content they consume (which will be never), the need for Coinhive and cryto-currency will live on.
As for myself, I have removed it from my sites. Instead I mine it on a self-hosted browser extension so I can make money while I browse, although it isn't very much. So far I've made $1.36 off the miner. It isn't enough to retire off of, but it's something.