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Crowdfunding audio research with open and legit mining of cryptocurrency in browser

Monetization of web content through cryptomining in browsers still has controversial status among web developers.

Pros

  • clear and simple concept - a visitor pays as long as she uses web resource
  • nothing distracts visitor's attention from web content, in other words, she pays with computing power of her device, not with her attention
  • simple and secure payouts to site owners in cryptocurrency

Cons

  • time spent on site is not always a good measure of content value
  • possibility of using the technology without visitor's permission
  • slowing down and accelerating deterioration of visitor's hardware

After the well-known false start of Coinhive service at PirateBay where it was used without user consent, Coinhive developers offered the version of their JS miner which can't be used without visitor's permission. This move along with the negotiations with leading anti-virus and ad-blocking companies results in appearance of pure legit mining service, which can be used as a valid alternative to monetization with ads.

Coinhive is not alone. According to the recent research from FORTH-ICS the market shares of main players look like follows:

 

In-browser mining shares Figure 1: Cryptomining market share per third party library in our dataset. As seen, Coinhive owns the dominant share (69%) when JSEcoin follows with 13% [from Truth in Web Mining: Measuring the Profitability and Cost of Cryptominers as a Web Monetization Model]

 

 

From the research:

To conclude, cryptomining indeed has the potential to become a reliable alternative for some content providers, but it is not capable of replacing the current ad-driven monetization model of the web.

The main reason for the conclusion is that the current mining-driven model is less profitable than ad-driven. But those content providers who can keep visitors on their web sites more than 5.3 minutes benefit from the new model. Music and video come to mind first. Porn industry? There is an assumption that VHS won over Betamax due to the pornographic movie market. It looks like the porn industry has the new challenge - mining vs. advertising.

For other content providers the mining-driven model is less attractive, at least at the current state of its development. But it's not hard to imagine some open and decentralized web analysis/payment system, which will reward site owners according to actual site usage in the system's own coins. Web servers and visitors' browsers connected in p2p network could provide enough computing power for such system to work. This network will also provide web-analytics and - if openly and ethically designed - it will collect only anonymous info about visitors, so there would be no reason to avoid it.

Today monetization with in-browser mining is on its early stage of adoption and mining for crowdfunding is even less explored area. Somebody has to try. For our fundraising campaign at SoundExpert (SE) we use incentivized mining with some small rewards. This scenario, described below, was developed according to peculiarity of SE project and its audience.

SE was born with the idea that audio consumers must have their own service for sound quality assessments/measurements, the service that is independent from manufacturing side. And this is our main reason for being. Since 2001 SE maintains continuous distributed listening tests of audio codecs. Sound quality ratings of 100+ codecs are computed thanks to volunteers participating in the tests (more than 10 000 to date). During the last two years a new method of audio quality benchmarking for portable players was developed and tested. It uses innovative music-based audio measurements that correlate well to sound quality estimations made by humans. Such objective measurements for a tested device can be shown in one compact df-slide, which gives in-detail picture of audio performance at a glance (Fig.2).

 

Df-slide with audio measurements

Figure 2: Df-slide with audio measurements. See How to read df-slides for details.

 

Such df-slides of different devices can be easily compared with each other and sorted according to sound quality. Df-slides of 27 portable players computed during R&D period are published here. The research is still in progress but the sound quality benchmark, based on objective measurements, is already a reality. First two portable devices are in the collection of tested players.

We are thankful to people who shared out their portable audio devices (30+) during the beta testing. Thanks to them we managed to develop the final reliable procedure of measurements. Unfortunately, it requires that a device under test has to be with us for a few days with possibility of changing its settings, firmware, operating system, etc. In other words we need those devices to be bought.

As SE is made for-and-by audio consumers we launched crowdfunding campaign for purchasing popular portable audio players for testing. Already tested devices will be sold for the purpose of buying laboratory-grade measurement equipment, which in turn will allow testing wide range of audio devices, not only portable players.

Our fundraising campaign uses both traditional donations through PayPal and mining of cryptocurrency in browser. Visitors can propose and mine for particular portable player, which will be bought and tested when its fundraising goal is achieved. Thus, every miner has a kind of helpful reward - results of highly revealing audio measurements for device of her interest.

We designed our mining page in such a way that under no circumstances a visitor can start mining by chance or accidentally or because of inattentiveness. The mining can be started wittingly with full understanding of the goal only. This is what we call open and ethical in-browser mining. Coinhive authed miner perfectly fits the purpose. In addition it allows adjusting of comfortable payload, so a user has full control over the process. Progress bar of fundraising is updated every 10 minutes getting current state with Coinhive API, so a user has live info about the sum already mined.

As it was already said, current in-browser mining is not very efficient/profitable. For example, rising of $100 with mining alone will require participation of 5000 - 7000 people who will leave their desktops/notebooks mining at nights during one week. The figures are a bit scary, to say the least. Anyway, our experimental crowdfunding campaign has started. To be honest we don't know how it will go. This is the price early adopters pay.

If somebody can offer her lovely audio player for our extensive testing, we are still ready and thankful. Manufacturers are welcome on an equal basis. All devices will be returned after testing.

soundexpert.org/mining ►

Your SE team.

 

Update 2019-03-16


Coinhive decided to discontinue its service on the 8th of March 2019. During three months of operation total ¢18 were mined by visitors of SE site. The epic fail )). Anyway, it was a helpful experience and $1 was added to each player visitors mined for, we love our contributors-miners, their efforts must not be in vain.

The next attempt to survive will be with JSEcoin platform, which rewards webmasters with cryptocurrency (JSE) for the time visitors spent on their sites. This platform utilizes a tiny amount of computing power of visitor's browser and only in case she explicitly opted-in. So when you first see the JSEcoin banner at the bottom of our site - don't be afraid to press "Continue", this will not affect your browsing experience. And we continue to strive for operation without loss. Your SE team.

 

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