Turn off ad blockers or mine cryptocurrencies for us

Gladys Abbott
February 15, 2018

Starting Sunday, Salon began offering its readers with a new option - either disable ad-blocker or let us use your computer to mine cryptocurrency while viewing the website.

If you chose to allow Salon to mine with your computer that agreement lasts for 24 hours and will then prompt you again on your next visit to their site.

Like many sites that depend on add revenue, Salon has felt the pinch of ad-blocking software in their money bag.

Online publication Salon announced in a blog post that the website will mine cryptocurrency with the unused processing power in a reader's computer when they turn on ad-blockers while reading the online magazine.

Computing power will "contribute to the advancement of technological discovery, evolution and innovation", Salon continues. A FAQ on the site explains that the spare processing juice would be used to mine cryptocurrency, though it does so in strikingly roundabout language: "For our beta program, we'll start by applying your processing power to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies". It's no secret that digital media companies are hurting, and crowdsourcing the process that generates some virtual currencies is certainly an innovative solution, though definitely an experimental one. But Salon said they will adjust how much processing power is being used by their crypto-miner.

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It's not clear what the limit on Salon's CPU usage is and Salon did not respond to questions. Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin enabled mining on Salon to see what would happen.

A recent Alphr report suggested that a malware redirects users of Android devices to websites that use the processing power of the devices to mine Monero.

These calculations are powered by a programme called Coinhive, the website says, which hides in readers' web browsers and uses a portion of their computers' power to solve complex algorithms to unlock monero - a rival cryptocurrency to bitcoin.

Coin-mining software isn't an immediate threat to the security of a computer, but it does crank up the CPU, make your computer run hotter, add to your electricity bill, and slow down whatever else you're doing.
Like Salon's proposition, some other projects, including Siacoin and MaidSafeCoin, seek to pay people for spare computing cycles or hard drive space. "Nothing is ever installed on your computer and Salon never has access to your personal information or files". According to the Salon team, ad blockers "create a more one-sided relationship between reader and publisher". "The principle behind this is that your readership has value both to us and to our advertisers".

News organisations have tried many novel ways to make readers pay - but Salon seems to have come out with the most audacious, yet.

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