In the era of the altcoins, at least one news site is taking a new approach to making ends meet. Salon announced today that it will give readers the choice between disabling ad blocking software or "allowing Salon to use unused computing power" to access their content. If you say yes to this latest offer, Salon will invite you to install Coinhive, a software plug-in that extracts the cryptocurrency known as Monero.
Salon explains his program, which calls beta, like this:
… Like most multimedia sites, ad-blockers profoundly reduce our revenue and create a one-sided relationship between reader and publisher.
We realize that specific technological developments now mean that it is not only the reader's eyes that have value for our site, but also the computer's ability to make calculations. In fact, your computer itself can help support our ability to pay our editors and journalists.
The offer is an intelligent, albeit controversial, way to recover lost advertising revenue. It's no secret that digital media companies are hurting, and crowdsourcing the process that generates some virtual currencies is certainly an innovative, though certainly experimental, solution.
However, the execution of software like this, which is often placed on machines ignored by malware, is a major problem for readers, and it is important that less technical readers know what they are going to. Salon defines it as an opt-in process that is good, although it only mentions the Coinhive name in the small activation box ("powered by Coinhive") and not in its complete FAQ page. Coinhive suffers a bad blow because it can be used for illicit purposes, even if the software is widely considered legitimate, as well as the currency that it extracts. Readers should have the opportunity to decide for themselves and receive all the specifications.
While Bitcoin absorbs most of the spotlight, some virtual currency projects are specifically trying to remix the stacked relationships between platforms and content creators. One of them called Steemit actually launched his own platform to mate with his currency, and users created a healthy social network based on cryptocurrency, mutually exchanging and earning real money in the process. Like the Salon proposal, some other projects, including Siacoin and MaidSafeCoin, try to pay people for backup computing cycles or hard disk space.
Overall, Salon looks surprisingly bullish on blockchain technology, announcing that "[plans] further use any learning from this to help support the evolution and growth of blockchain technology, digital currencies and other ways to better serve the exchange of value between the content and the contribution of the user. "
Like publishers, a lot of Internet users are realizing the use of modern social media and are looking for new ways to get a small passive income or be paid for the content they send to the world. Blockchain projects that are not too busy overestimating ICO's earnings to really build something interesting could have a chance to democratize the game of online content.
While this might be idealistic, Salon seems to understand that emerging technologies offer some unique opportunities for anyone not afraid of climbing the big blue boat. Since it is clear that the model we have now does not work for anyone outside the high walls of the major tech platforms, there is no shame in that game.