The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra revenue source.
Initially, this caused the CPUs of visitors to max out due to a configuration error, but it was later adjusted to be less demanding. Still, there was plenty of discussion on the move, with greatly varying opinions.
Some criticized the site for “hijacking” their computer resources for personal profit, without prior warning. However, there are also people who are happy to give something back to TPB, especially if it can help the site to remain online.
Aside from the configuration error, there was another major mistake everyone agreed on. The Pirate Bay team should have alerted its visitors to this change beforehand, and not after the fact, as they did last weekend.
Despite the sensitivities, The Pirate Bay’s move has inspired others to follow suit. Steaming link site Alluc.ee, often used by pirates, is one of the first. While they use the same mining service, their implementation is more elegant.
Alluc shows how many hashes are mined and the site allows users to increase or decrease the CPU load, or turn the miner off completely.
“It’s a fun way users can get rid of ads (which are disabled after the counter hits 600k) which we are happy to try since just like users we hate ads. In the current implementation, the user actually starts browsing ad-free permanently after a certain amount of hashes have been generated,” Alluc told us.
“When being transparent about it, providing an opt-out option and rewarding the user if he chooses to let the miner run it may have the potential of making a great widget for webmasters and users alike.”
Putting all the controversy aside for a minute, the idea to let visitors mine coins is a pretty ingenious idea. The Pirate Bay said it was testing the feature to see if it’s possible as a replacement for ads, which might be much needed in the future.
In recent years many pirate sites have struggled to make a decent income. Not only are more people using ad-blockers now, the ad-quality is also dropping as copyright holders actively go after this revenue source, trying to dry up the funds of pirate sites. And with Chrome planning to add a default ad-blocker to its browser, the outlook is grim.
A cryptocurrency miner might alleviate this problem. That is, as long as ad-blockers don’t start to interfere with this revenue source as well.
Interestingly, this would also counter one of the main anti-piracy talking points. Increasingly, industry groups are using the “public safety” argument as a reason to go after pirate sites. They point to malicious advertisements as a great danger, hoping that this will further their calls for tougher legislation and enforcement.
If The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites can ditch the ads, they would be less susceptible to these and other anti-piracy pushes. Of course, copyright holders could still go after the miner revenues, but this might not be easy.
TorrentFreak spoke to Coinhive, the company that provides the mining service to The Pirate Bay, and they don’t seem eager to take action without a court order.
“We don’t track where users come from. We are just providing servers and a script to submit hashes for the Monero blockchain. We don’t see it as our responsibility to determine if a website is ‘valid’ and we don’t have the technical capabilities to do so,” a Coinhive representative says.
We also contacted several site owners and thus far the response has been mixed. Some like the idea and would consider adding a miner, if it doesn’t affect visitors too much. Others are more skeptical and don’t believe that the extra revenue is worth the trouble.
The Pirate Bay itself, meanwhile, has completed its test run and has removed the miner from the site. They will now analyze the results before deciding whether or not it’s “the future” for them.