Yes, you read that right. The newest and increasingly popular advertising method is to send Bitcoins to random people.
Advertising through free money
The companies doing the advertising are using online block chain explorer provider Blockchain.info‘s ‘tag‘ feature. This feature allows the holder of a Bitcoin address to ‘tag’ their address by giving it a name and a link that will appear on Blockchain.info whenever their address is used (e.g. when viewing a transaction that address was involved in or seeing how many bitcoins that address contains). So, when someone sees that an address sent them 0.00000001 BTC and looks the transaction up on Blockchain.info, they’ll see the company that sent it and that company’s website URL.
While it may sound pretty ridiculous (and it is…), it isn’t too crazy. These companies are mainly sending out 0.00000001 BTC, worth $0.000004014. So, they aren’t sending much. They can send to 1,000,000 addresses for .01 BTC. Not too shabby. It appears as though these transactions confirm sometimes, but other times they don’t. If they do confirm, they cost an additional .0001 btc per transaction for the company. Some users are getting annoyed by these transactions, saying that they’re just spamming the block chain for fractions of btc. Others are loving the free bitcoins, commenting, “Spammer may do whatever he wants. It is his right and his freedom. Any confirmed transaction – is my funds. Even 0.00000001 btc”
Coming from BitcoinTalk
From what I’ve read and tested, all of the addresses that bitcoins have been sent to from companies have been posted on the online Bitcoin forum BitcoinTalk.org at least once. This probably means that the companies are scanning BitcoinTalk for addresses, and that’s how they decide where they’re going to send Bitcoins to. It’s pretty smart, because users of bitcointalk are generally active Bitcoin users, so they’ll look into who sent them Bitcoins for no reason. This leads them to discover that the Bitcoins are being sent by a company, and they’ll look into that company. This way, the company managed to get someone to look at their product for a meager 0.00000001 BTC. Obviously this won’t happen 100% of the time, but based on the number of postings I’ve seen on sites about these advertisements, their advertising campaign is working pretty well. I’ve seen posts on BitcoinTalk, reddit, and Twitter about these spammy advertisements.
Abusing the advertising
Some users of BitcoinTalk.org have been attempting to abuse the advertising companies by posting giant lists of addresses they control. The companies then send out microtransactions to these addresses, and since the BitcoinTalk users posted thousands of addresses, they gain a relatively fair amount of bitcoins.
Trying it out myself
I decided to confirm that these companies were getting their addresses from BitcoinTalk. I generated some addresses that had never been used before, and posted them on BitcoinTalk in a thread. Sure enough, each of these addresses received 0.00000001 BTC shortly thereafter.
Which companies are using it?
Based on what I’ve read, Laxo Trade [warning, this site does not seem very trustworthy, I advise doing heavy research before using it] was the first company to use this spam advertising method. It seems like their site might be a Ponzi scheme.
I’ve also received 0.00000001 BTC from ‘BitGirl – Sexy Bitcoins‘ and ‘BtcSmart – Multiply your money‘. Both almost certainly got my address from when I posted it on a BitcoinTalk thread. I just checked these sites, and both seem to be down. One is straight-up offline, the other gives me “CloudFlare Error 521: Web server is down”. It would not be surprising if these sites were hit by a DoS (denial-of-service) attack or a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack.
Whether you like it or not, these companies will continue to send you Bitcoins if you post your address on BitcoinTalk. Some users will rejoice, others will attempt to abuse the advertising spammers, and a few will get annoyed. Beware that some of the sites that will send you Bitcoins may be scams or ponzi schemes, so be cautious if you plan on using their site. And if you don’t want the Bitcoins that were sent to you, you can always give them to a charity. Every fraction of a penny counts!