U.S. online news publication Salon has adopted an unconventional alternative to ads to make money — using a reader's computing power to mine cryptocurrency.
News organizations rely on advertising revenue to make ends meet, and often advise against readers using ad blocking add-ons to support the running of the site.
But Salon, which is owned by Salon Media Group, is now giving readers that don't want ads to appear on content an option to "suppress ads." This allows Salon to use a reader's unused computing power to mine virtual currency.
Its virtual currency of choice? Monero, a privacy-focused coin.
To "mine" digital currencies, cryptocurrency miners work out complex mathematical solutions to add transactions to the underlying blockchain, or distributed ledger. Blockchains maintain a continuously growing log of transactions or other data across a network of computers.
"Your unused processing power are the resources you already have but are not actively using to its full potential at the time of browsing Salon.com," the online publication said on a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.
"Mining uses more of your resources which means your computer works a bit harder and uses more electricity than if you were just passively browsing the site with ads."
Monero has been involved in several attempts by hackers to hijack a person's computer to mine cryptocurrency without permission, a process known as "crypto-jacking."
On Sunday, it was revealed that hackers had deployed an altered version of the popular plugin Browsealoud to a number of government websites in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia. This version of Browsealoud infected the government websites with Coinhive code, which is used to generate monero tokens.
Monero is liked by some crypto enthusiasts for its anonymity. Unlike bitcoin, the world's best-known cryptocurrency, when monero funds are transferred to a digital wallet address, they are in actuality sent to a randomly created address. This means that no one can know whether those funds were received by the recipient.