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Webmasters Selling Visitor Computing Power?  (View post)

Navarr Barnier [PersonRank 1]

Friday, December 11, 2009
10 years ago5,832 views

Yes, absoloutely yes! This would be amazing!

But, actual users (non-devs, non-site-owners, non-advertisers) would HATE it. They just hate that kind of thing – look at what happened when people finally noticed the option [not to do it] in Digsby.

It might have to be a user-side opt-in, but why would a user agree to that?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Navarr, what if the scripts would be very modest and never cause noticeable lags?

Similar to how users hate some forms of blinking, big, slow-loading ads, I would argue users also often do not hate subtle, non-obtrusive, smaller ads (perhaps also knowing that these allow the webmaster to offer more free content to them etc.). Consequently such ComputingSense would need to be similarly unobtrusive.

Justin [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

When the websites show me ads, I'm either inclined to look at them or just skip over them. It doesn't cost me money to look at them or skip.

But, when it executes JavaScript on my browser, that uses up my CPU cycles and most likely it will prevent my CPU from going into a low power mode which means the CPU will be drawing more current. As the CPU does more work, my CPU fan and system fan do not get to work at a lower RPM since they need to remove more heat from the system. This again costs me money too.

So, if "ComputeSense" ever goes live, that would be equivalent to having to pay to visit the websites as opposed to being exposed to advertisements, just that the payment is through our electricity bills.

Hans Mast [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Philipp, very intriguing post!

I must, however, point out a grammatical ambiguity that nagged at me all throughout the post until I finally connected the dots and figured out what you were trying to say--your post title doesn't mean "Webmasters Selling (to) Visitor Computer Power?" it means "Webmasters Selling Visitors' Computer Power?" The phrase "Webmasters Selling Visitor Computer Power" very ambiguously uses the noun "Visitor" as an adjective. The other interpretation (which was more obvious to me) uses "Visitor" in that phrase is as an indirect object, which means the opposite of what you're trying to say. If you convert "Visitor" to a definite adjective (rather than a noun which could be either an adjective or an indirect object) by making it "Visitor's" or (to my personal preference) "Visitors' ", you communicate what you were trying to communicate without ambiguity. It is generally considered best practice to remove ambiguity from your writing so as to avoid confusion. Your English is usually excellent and this is a tricky issue that many native English people would struggle with, so don't sweat it. However, knowing you, I thought you'd want to know. :-) Furthermore, it's not an outright grammatical error, just an ambiguity that could be confusing.

Hans Mast [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

"It might have to be a user-side opt-in, but why would a user agree to that?"

If webmasters offered users an option between "ComputeSense" and ads, I believe many would choose ComputeSense. I know I would!

David Mulder [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]Hans Mast: Just wanted to point out that in article headers/titles one has a greater language technical freedom.

As far as this "ComputerSense" goes, it doesn't fit google's vision, where we all run thin clients, while connected to the cloud. So google will never ever introduce this.

Mxx [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

this is an interesting idea, but i see there are some huge challenges to be overcome.

unless a visitor is reading a really long article or playing some flash game, their average time on each page is very short, maybe 1-3minutes.
so in order for this distributed computing model to work, "work units" would have to be extremely small so that they would be done before user leaves the page. and from what i know, breaking down huge computing tasks into smaller "work units" is extremely challenging.
for example some of Berkeley's BOINC projects have "work units" that take a few weeks to compute. it takes so long before there is simply no way to break down a task into any smaller chunks.

another problem i see is performance. javascript is becoming faster(compared to what it used to be), but i would image it to be still much much slower to a compiled and optimized c/asm code. distributed computing projects are able to achieve some results because they spend huge amount of effort optimizing their clients to squeeze every last drop of performance. i don't think javascript is that flexible(yet?)...unless there's a way to access OpenCL or DirectCompute shaders from javascript..

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Thanks Hans for pointing out that ambuiguity, wasn't aware of it! I will ponder a change.

Edit: For now I changed from
"Webmasters Selling Visitor Computing Power?" to
"Visitor Computing Power Sold by Webmasters?"

Raffaele Castagno [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

So, webmasters would be paid for MY computing power? That's senseless.
If I'm to consume CPU cycles for free, I'd go for BOING.

Definitely, not something I'd like to see.

Michael Diamond [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

So here's a theory – how about it be an opt in system where you have an account global to the ComputeSense program – such that webmasters and users share the profits, and people who don't opt in aren't bothered by it. All parties profit, rather than the far more uncomfortable plan where webmasters use our compute resources and we get nothing.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> So, webmasters would be paid for MY computing power?
> That's senseless.

Keep in mind that many revenue forms are a compromise – right now, webmasters running ads already get paid for your attention (used to look at ads). In a way you are spending "brain power" for that.

(Also, Flash ads spend some CPU cycles to display, too, besides the extra download time – if you haven't got an ad blocker.)

> If I'm to consume CPU cycles for free, I'd go for BOING.

No, you wouldn't really consume cycles for free – you would consume them in trade for cool online content, which a webmaster invested their energy and time in preparing.

I'm not saying that that makes it good or worthwhile to have such a system – perhaps I'd be the first to opt out of such a system, because I often have calculations of my own running in the background on my localhost, and perhaps longer analysis would conclude that such a system has fundamental flaws etc. – just pointing out some of the angles of this discussion I find are worth noting, and drawing some comparisons to revenue systems we are used to, to further explore the implications of such a system.

Jeremy [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

Share the revenue with the visitor. Or it could be donated for research. This is just a reconfigured version of boinc. BOINC is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers (many are home computers).

If some of these ideas were tweaked and developed further people could store large portions of the Internet like google cache does close to home and use mesh networking to bypass much of the ISP costs that most Americans pay.

$500 per person we now spend in the US to our wonderful ISPs.

Security [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

What about security?
If I'm malicious I could easily bypass the code that generates the results and just send in my own nonsensical results. This way I could get paid but not bother with spending CPU cycles.

Mxx [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

i don't know how profitable that will be.
i remember a while ago, i think, IBM had a for-profit distributed computing project and it didn't get far.
now if you'll add webmasters as middle man that are getting a cut of that profit... :/

the amount of money you'd be getting is microscopic.

if a project has 100million work units to compute, how much do you think they will value each work unit? i'd say 1/20th of a cent if not less.

if some researcher has enough money to better finance such project, they'll just build their own cluster or use services like amazon cloud where they will get much more consistent performance numbers.

another point is that you are talking about real world money. and when you talk about money you get people that want money..like cheaters and hackers. so your project will constantly will be under attack from that kind of losers trying to find some way to game the system and get more money. so now instead of spending resources on doing scientific work, you'll have developers coming up with solutions to every possible way this system can be exploited.
regular distributed computing projects also have this problem. but there that problem is mostly from people just want to boost their stats..
but when it comes to real world money it's another game all together and you'll have 1000x attackers looking for easy money.

Mark Edmondson [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Thought provoking post – it would make sense that computing power utilised on desktop computers via things such as the SETI project today will have their counterpart in the cloud enabled future, even moreso as the increased ease of communication between nodes.

DPic [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

And if you'd like to donate your spare computing power, there's BOINC boinc.berkeley.edu/

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> If I'm malicious I could easily bypass the
> code that generates the results and just
> send in my own nonsensical results.

Not sure, I guess every calculation could be sent to two or three different IPs, if all of the returns for that set aren't matching then the set will be disregarded, and perhaps repeat mismatching IPs be added to a blacklist...

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

A very interesting concept, but with some practical problems.

As others have said, JavaScript is not well-suited to this. If a computation is big enough to farm out, then it's big enough to need a more efficient language. So some kind of plugin or native code interface would need to be used.

Also, if the user is willing to let their computer perform computations in return for some money, that user would surely want their computer to be doing these computations whenever it is idle, not just when the browser is viewing a particular website. There's insignificant value in "browse-by computations", but a user might be willing to keep a tab open in their browser all day so that they could earn a few extra pennies.

Finally, the computation must be valuable enough that the user can be paid at least as much as the extra power used by their computer (because your computer uses more power when computing than when it is idle). And it's not obvious that this will be possible. The power management at a specialized data center will always be better than on an individual's home computer, and by the time you factor in all the costs of running this scheme, it will probably be simpler and cheaper to just do all the calculations on Amazon's or Google's computing cloud.

Christian Stricker [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Hello everybody,

this idea has already been made truth by Plura Processing.
You can visit their website pluraprocessing.com/ for more information about it.

However, most important for this discussion might be, that it's already possible and perhaps that it works within a Java applet.

Morevover, in their FAQ they answer the question about how much money e.g. charities can raise:

"Plura Processing pays affiliates up to $2.60 per full month of computing time provided."

("Full month of computing time" is equaivalent to a single CPU providing compute time for an entire month at 100% utilization.)

Christian Stricker [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]Roger Browne

You said:
"The power management at a specialized data center will always be better than on an individual's home computer."

As I am not an energy expert, I can only quote pluraprocessing.com/charities. ... which disagrees with your opinion:

"Sharing saves the environment

Very large data centers are being built every day for corporate computing needs. Not only are these data centers expensive and inefficient, but they’re also a significant source of energy waste and pollution. The New York Times reported in May 2008 that “data centers will surpass the airline industry as a greenhouse gas polluter by 2020.”

Our solution is based on sharing. It’s like car pooling to save our resources. Right now, we all have excess computing power on our PCs that we never use. If we share our unused power, we can magnify the usefulness of our computers."

Waldir Pimenta [PersonRank 2]

10 years ago #

I wonder if Web Workers (hacks.mozilla.org/2009/07/work ...) would be useful in this context... the demo (blog.mozbox.org/post/2009/04/1 ...) I saw did show a noticeable improvement in performance, but I guess this might depend on the nature of the calculations.

mjc [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

This already happens!

See Plura Processing
pluraprocessing.com/webmasters ...

The 80legs crawling service runs on the platform
80legs.com/

I've used these services to run some of my large computing jobs.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

(80legs.com promises to crawl a million pages for you for $2. Doesn't sound bad if you need some quick crawling!)

Wingi [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Offering a link on top of the ads like "Disable ads for some background computing" would be the opt-in. If you can hold people on your platform (facebook, frame-based webmailer) the computing time per visitor could be reasonable ...

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

If an unused computer uses 5 watts in "sleep" mode, and (say) 105 watts when the processor is working hard, that's a difference of 72 kilowatt-hours per month. That's going to cost about £10 ($16) where I live, way above the $2.60 that Plura Processing would pay.

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