Money: Free information on the internet is threatening the survival of publications around the world. The University of Luxembourg may have found a part-solution.
Print advertising revenue has fallen by three quarters since 2000 (says the Newspaper Association of America) and this sharp downward trend has gathered pace with the advent of tablet computers. Online ad sales compensate for only a fraction of this and there aren’t many people willing to take out e-paper subscriptions.
Until now no easy ways have been developed to reward online content, but a new discovery by Alex Biryukov, a professor of computer science at the University of Luxembourg, might be a way forward.
Users could choose to donate a small amount of their PC’s spare computing power when they like or comment on a page. This would be bought by virtual currencies (such as Bitcoin) who need this processing capability to run their systems. They pay in virtual currency, which can then be exchanged into dollars, euros or whatever.
But how to make this process completely anonymous and secure, enabling users to avoid being identified or hacked after participating? Professor Biryukov points out that when the computation is completed, a verifiable “proof of work” certificate could be generated in an anonymous way. The content provider then gets paid in virtual currency for the amount of computation performed by the user.
“Each transaction would only be a micro-payment of a fraction of a cent, but this could become an important source of revenue for very popular content providers,” notes Biryukov, a specialist in cryptology and security of information systems.
There is still a long way to go before this theoretical discovery could have practical uses. However, it shows an easy way for readers, viewers and gamers to reward the online content they enjoy.