In what is almost an ironic twist on the material cost of online advertising, Salon now wants readers who run security extensions, err, block ads, to lend Salon their CPUs so that the publisher can mine cryptocurrency.
If you visit the Salon website today, you will be presented with three options: disable your security, allow them to siphon your CPU cycles, or leave.
It seems popular online magazine Salon is the latest company to hop onto the cryptocurrency mining bandwagon. The publication has updated its website to require users to disable their ad-blockers for the right to read articles – or alternatively, lend their CPU power to mine cryptocurrency.
Visitors are now prompted to either turn off ad-blockers altogether or select the new ‘Suppress Ads’ option to “block ads by allowing Salon to use your unused computing power.”
According to a clarification on its website, opting to lend your “unused processing power” will only happen “when you are browsing Salon.com.” The other options are to switch ad-blockers off, or pay for their ad-free apps on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Fire.
In-browser cryptocurrency mining is hot right now. The Pirate Bay was caught surreptitiously using visitors web browsers for that purpose, and there is even an API called Coinhive that can be integrated into websites, mobile apps, and other software.
It's not clear how Salon built their miner code - they may even have used Coinhive. What is clear is that Salon will no longer let visitors read the news for free any more.
That is a development that everyone should have seen coming; as ads got more resource-taxing and dangerous, more people started using ad-blockers. It is a vicious cycle that could not end well.
If nothing else, the cost of displaying online ads was just too high for too many users.
The simple truth is that online advertising costs battery life, bandwidth, and CPU cycles. It is why most claims that the news is published online for free is simply not true - it's like giving someone a print book for"free", and then expecting them to pay you for the paper and ink. (Salon even repeats this fiction in the pop-up and in their FAQ.)
In this situations, no matter whether a reader disables their security or allows Salon to mine cryptocurrency, the reader is still going to pay somehow.
It almost makes you wish for paywalls, doesn't it?