What is the potential of web browser mining?

Browser-based mining, as its name suggests, is a method of cryptocurrency mining that happens inside a browser and is implemented using scripting language. This is different compared to the more widely known file-based cryptocurrency mining approach which involves downloading and running a dedicated executable file.

Browser-based mining dates back to May of 2011 when an innovative service called BitcoinPlus.com was initially launched—back when Bitcoin was cheap and mining was easy—not to be confused with another cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin Plus.org (XBC). That service was in many ways remarkably similar to its modern reincarnation, Coinhive. It used JavaScript code for pooled mining and website owners could sign up to the service and embed these scripts into their web pages to make page visitors mine for them. The big difference is that back in 2011 BitcoinPlus.com, as its name suggests, mined for Bitcoin (BTC) whereas the current browser-based miners like Coinhive are mining for Monero (XMR)—a newer, privacy-focused cryptocurrency. Back in 2011, before the advent of ASIC mining in 2013, Bitcoin was still in its infancy, mining difficulty was relatively low, and cryptocurrency prices were even lower. It was (just about) possible to do some mining with home-grade hardware.

Even though it was possible at that time to mine for Bitcoin via BitcoinPlus.com, the reality of the situation was that it was largely a futile exercise. The reward was minuscule compared to the amount of mining power and electricity required. Of course, this was back in the days before Bitcoin prices shot through the roof—in June 2011, Bitcoin reached the then lofty heights of almost US$30.