What Do You Do for Money, Honey

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. In this new App Store economy where users are often unwilling to pay even $5.00 for an application, developers have been looking for ways to make ends meet. In-app advertising was one model that was tried but the payoff tended to be subpar. Many game developers shifted to a model based on convincing players to make a bunch of in-app purchases. While that model has been very profitable for game developers, it has been hard to make that model work in non-game applications. Now some developers are experimenting with embedding crypto-currency miners in their software:

The app is Calendar 2, a scheduling app that aims to include more features than the Calendar app that Apple bundles with macOS. In recent days, Calendar 2 developer Qbix endowed it with code that mines the digital coin known as Monero. The xmr-stack miner isn’t supposed to run unless users specifically approve it in a dialog that says the mining will be in exchange for turning on a set of premium features. If users approve the arrangement, the miner will then run. Users can bypass this default action by selecting an option to keep the premium features turned off or to pay a fee to turn on the premium features.

I actually like what Qbix is doing. Users are given options for using advanced features. They can either make a one time payment of $17.99, a monthly payment of $0.99, or allow the application to mine Monero in the background. If the user doens’t like any of those options, the advanced features are disabled but the users are otherwise free to use the application.

Two of the biggest problems I have with the advertising model that powers much of the Internet and some applications are the lack of transparency and the lack of options. Websites and applications that collect user information to provide to advertisers often don’t disclose that they’re collecting information or, even if they do, what kind of information they’re collecting. Moreover, users seldom have the option of paying the developer to disable the data collection. Displaying advertisements also introduces a major malware vector. Numerous advertising networks have been highjacked into serving malware to users. Crypto-currency miners don’t require collecting user information and are harder to turn into malware vectors than advertising networks. The cost is electricity consumption due to high CPU usage, which is why I still appreciate developers who provide an option to pay to disable their crypto-currency miners.