What is browser-based cryptocurrency mining, and how does it work?

Once assumed to be extinct until its unlikely return in the latter part of 2017, browser-based cryptocurrency mining dates back to 2011 when BitcoinPlus.com launched its then-innovative service.

Of course, back when Bitcoin was fairly new and mining was cheap, the idea of using a website to do the work for miners was quite popular. Thanks to a surge in the cryptocurrency market circa 2017, browser-based cryptocurrency mining has made a resurgence in certain circles today.

The technology’s evolution is also due in part to the advent of blockchain-based coins that are mineable with easy-to-use JavaScript application programming interfaces (APIs) and home hardware. However, the accessibility has also ushered in a slew of malicious browser-based mining services into the fold.

The foundation of cryptocurrencies, built on blockchain technology, is to safeguard financial transactions by embedding them in a public and immutable chain of blocks. To advance and maintain the system, new blocks must continually be attached to store all pending transactions, commonly known as mining.

Miners compete in solving a cryptographic puzzle, referred to as proof-of-work (PoW). The difficulty of this PoW adjusts continually to create new blocks at a consistent rate. This ensures that the process remains predictable and secure by ensuring tamper resistance. As more miners join in on the hunt to find blocks, the complexity increases, and the steady block creation stays intact.

What is browser-based cryptocurrency mining?

Browser-based mining is a method of cryptocurrency mining that happens inside a browser and uses scripting language. This method differs from the more commonly known file-based cryptocurrency mining approach, which requires downloading and running a dedicated executable file.

During the inception of browser-based mining in 2011, mining cryptocurrency was cheap and relatively easy. It used JavaScript code for pooled mining, and users could sign up and embed scripts in their websites to provide a way for page visitors to mine for them. Browser-based cryptocurrency miners only mined for Bitcoin (BTC) back then. But in recent times, newer cryptocurrencies like Monero (XMR) are also mined through browser-based miners.

How does browser mining work?

Can you really mine cryptocurrency with a browser? The answer is yes. By embedding mining code into websites, one can leverage the computing capacity of website visitors to magnify their mining power. Browser mining takes advantage of website visitors’ computing power, allowing miners to significantly reduce their energy bills and hardware expenses.

Monero is an example of a cryptocurrency that enables browser-based mining. The cryptocurrency uses the RandomX hash function, a hashing algorithm used for certain PoW blockchains, such as Monero.

Designed to be application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC)-resistant, RandomX uses random code execution and memory-hard techniques. This means that Monero’s PoW algorithm specifically prevents specialized mining hardware, like ASICs and graphics processing units, from dominating the network. RandomX is purposely optimized for general-purpose CPUs in the hopes of maintaining a more decentralized network and equal block reward distribution.

It suffices to say that this innovative approach to generating income from web-based services is becoming increasingly popular among those looking for added sources of income. However, browser mining is also used for more malicious purposes, as it can be abused to run cryptocurrency mining scripts on unsuspecting users’ machines without their consent or knowledge.

Hidden mining or mining without a user’s express consent is also known as “cryptojacking” and is typically done by embedding JavaScript code on a website or app. To avoid this, users should be careful about the websites and applications they visit and the permissions they grant these services.

How to get started with browser cryptocurrency mining

Those interested in browser-based cryptocurrency mining can easily do so by downloading and installing third-party services, such as CryptoTab Browser. A new user simply needs to create an account and peruse the internet using the browser as usual — the mining will take place in the background, and the user gets rewarded in cryptocurrency. With CryptoTab Browser, the reward is in BTC.

Users can typically turn mining on and off and adjust mining speed according to their preference with these cryptocurrency browsers. As long as the browser is open and the user has set mining on, the browser will continue to mine and earn rewards. A cryptocurrency wallet is typically tied to these wallets, allowing users to hold their rewards safely.

Brave Browser crypto mining is another option that allows users to interact with decentralized applications (DApps), such as games, decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols, decentralized exchanges (DEXs) and more. Most DApps accessed through cryptocurrency browsers will look like normal websites, but they are only accessible via cryptocurrency browsers.

The Uniswap DEX is an example of this. Front-end-wise, it looks like a typical site, but its back-end DApp is only accessible via an Ethereum-compatible cryptocurrency browser. Some examples of cryptocurrency-compatible browsers are:

Examples of cryptocurrency-compatible browsers

It’s vital to remember that browser cryptocurrency wallets are applicable only with specific blockchains. For instance, MetaMask will work harmoniously with Ethereum-based DApps, while Phantom is designed for the Solana network. 

To ensure the most secure experience, users should opt for a browser that comes preloaded with a wallet compatible with their preferred DApps. Otherwise, they will need to install multiple extensions on their cryptocurrency browser.

Is browser mining profitable?

The profitability of browser mining depends on several factors, including which cryptocurrency you’re mining and how much hashing power the device has. Additionally, the price of cryptocurrencies will naturally fluctuate over time, so users should be aware that their mining rewards may also go up or down in value. 

Many people find browser mining a fun, engaging and potentially lucrative way to earn cryptocurrencies. For those who are interested in trying browser mining for themselves, there are several options available that can provide an easy-to-use and rewarding experience.

Some of the benefits of browser cryptocurrency mining include:

  • Lower energy costs: Browser mining eliminates the need for expensive hardware, which typically consumes significant energy. This saves miners money on electricity and reduces their carbon footprint
  • Accessibility: Browser mining is available to anyone with a computer or laptop with an internet connection. This makes it much easier than trying to mine cryptocurrencies on specialized hardware like ASICs, which can be expensive and difficult to obtain
  • Autonomy: Since browser mining does not require miners to join a mining pool, it gives them more autonomy and control over their mining experience. This means that one can set their own parameters for how much and what kind of cryptocurrency is mined and adjust these settings according to their preferences.

Are cryptocurrency browsers safe?

There are typically a few common arguments against browser-based cryptocurrency mining. One such argument is that cryptocurrency browsers currently do not natively support proven cryptographic APIs. Undeniably, this applies to native browser code, specifically JavaScript.

Another criticism is their reliance on secure sockets layer and server-based security, as most cryptocurrency browsers are often reduced to the host server’s security. Hypothetically, should that server be compromised, the attacker can alter it or add a backdoor. This means that the attacker can gain unauthorized access to the server, bypassing the server’s security measures. 

There are several measures that users can take to protect themselves when using cryptocurrency browsers. For example, users must always keep their software up-to-date and use strong passwords to protect their wallets. Additionally, they should be cautious about the sites they visit and avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown files from untrusted sources.

Overall, using reputable browsers with industry-grade security features can protect against common security risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable cryptocurrency browsing experience.

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