Digital Marketing

Will Pirate Bay’s Browser Mining Lead to the Death of Online Advertising?


Never trust a Pirate. The internet’s most popular index of illegal content has been caught stealing on numerous occasions, and not just from the software developers and movie studios whose pirated content it shares online, but from the users who visit their site in search of ‘free’ goods. In reality, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In 2017 and again in 2018, Pirate Bay was found to be surreptitiously ‘borrowing’ processing power from web users – hijacking their CPUs to haul in treasure troves of cryptocurrency including Bitcoin and Monero.

When discovered, Pirate Bay’s actions caused outcry from its users and prompted the site to state, “This is only a test. We really want to get rid of all the ads. But we also need enough money to keep the site running.”

Pirate Bay had at least struck upon an interesting idea, even if its implementation was less than honest: if harnessed, the combined excess computing power of a website’s traffic could be used to eliminate the need for online advertising. Now crypto startup Gather is looking to create a legitimate business utlising the same concept, and there are early signs that the idea is catching on.

Going Legit

The first and most obvious step for any business trying to bring in-browser mining to the mainstream, is to make it a purely opt-in service that works only with users’ consent. This is exactly how Gather is pitching its service. Upon visiting a Gather-enabled site users are asked whether they would like to opt in. If they decline, the user can freely continue to view the site, but without any of the benefits of participation.

The second is to ensure that mining runs smoothly without putting undue stress or overheating individual systems. According to Gather they have already successfully conducted considerable stress-testing on their system, without any such trouble arising. The third is to pay the site owner at least as handsomely as advertising would, something that will be demonstrated in the longer run by the project’s ability to bring major players onboard. The last element is to ensure that all participants receive their fair share of the benefits. Gather has created a system in which site owners can use the computing power to mine Gather’s Proof-of-Work blockchain for $GTH and site visitors can receive a share of benefits too. In theory, it’s a solution in which everybody wins.

Can It Really Work?

Thanks to Brave, and its pay-to-view model of advertising, incentivized browsing experiences are already proven to work. It’s a concept that cryptocurrency holders are familiar with and happy to participate in. The key difference is that while Brave worked to incentivize the delivery of adverts, Gather is working to eliminate them entirely.

To succeed in the longer term, the company needs to find businesses and websites that are willing to adopt its cloud-mining system. There are some promising signs for the startup here too. So far 200 businesses are onboard with the plan, including one $4 billion dollar mega corporation. The company has also won the confidence and backing of some major VC players including Bitscale Capital, LD Capital, TRG Capital and Master Ventures.

In short, the signs for an ad-free future internet are encouraging. Online advertisers may be about to face their single biggest challenge since the dawn of the internet.

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