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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia 248

MrAndrews writes "After reading a Slashdot story about adblocking and the lively discussion that followed, I got to wondering how else sites can support themselves, if paywalls and ads are both non-starters. Microtransactions have been floated for years, but never seem to take off, possibly because they come off as arbitrary taxation or cumbersome walled-garden novelties. Still, it seems like the idea of microtransactions is still appealing, it's just the wrapping that's always been flawed. I wanted to know how viable the concept really was, so I've created a little experiment to gather some data, to put some real numbers to it. It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting. No actual money is involved, it's just theoretical. There's a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and I'll be releasing anonymized analyses of the data in the coming weeks. If you're game, please check out the experiment page for more information, and give it a go. Even if you only use it once and forget about it, that says something about the concept right there."
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Testing an Ad-Free Microtransaction Utopia

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:10PM (#43154639)

    Might skew the results a bit.

    • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:21PM (#43154741) Homepage

      True, but that in itself could be part of the experiment, for each individual person. For instance, today I'd already have spent $0.25. At the moment, I can't tell if I'm happy with that result or not, but I bet by the end of a month, I'll know if my "whee!" approach to dropping pennies is a Very Bad Idea.

      • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:40PM (#43154919) Homepage Journal

        It is not a valid experiment exactly because it is artificial and no real money is involved. The results will tell us nothing of value about the question.

        • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:54PM (#43155039)

          It is not a valid experiment exactly because it is artificial and no real money is involved. The results will tell us nothing of value about the question.

          Yes, in exactly the same way the Stanford Prison Experiment didn't teach us anything about human behavior because it wasn't a real prison...

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:57PM (#43155061)
            The Stanford Prison Experiment wasn't about prison - that was just a plot device for the roll play. The web pay is about money directly. So substituting something else does, necessarily, change the results.
            • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:14PM (#43155181)

              The web pay is about money directly. So substituting something else does, necessarily, change the results.

              The original poster stated that this test would yield no experimentally useful data because the environment was simulated instead of actual. That argument is bogus: Simulations can and usually do yield useful results. I said nothing about role play, substitution, etc., that's all you. All I have said is this simulation will yield experimentally useful data. It may not yield the kind and quality of data you want, but it is still scientifically useful.

              The first step in any scientific endeavor is the collection of data with an eye towards testing a hypothesis. I do not see the problem with the author's test. does it matter if 1%, 10%, or 99% of the people who go to the website would do the same if "real" money was involved? Not necessarily. If a data plot shows the same relationships, but on a different scale, then this large-scale test without money could be very useful in a small-scale test with money. It could be used to validate certain models of human behavior, or rule out others.

              Of course, inductive reasoning ability amongst slashdotters has been falling like a rock for some time, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see such a poorly-reasoned reply getting moderated up... -_-

              • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:59PM (#43155461)
                It is not experimentally valid. You can't swing that argument, so you are going the other way and indicating that it is "useful" even if not "valid" (which, if that is your argument now, indicates your first response was a non sequitur, and you agree with the original post you disagreed with).

                Of course, inductive reasoning ability amongst slashdotters has been falling like a rock for some time, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see such a poorly-reasoned reply getting moderated up

                Then you drop into an ad hominem, where you can't fault the logic directly, so you imply it's faulty.

                It seems you meant to say "I can't disagree with your statement that it's not valid, but even invalid experiments can yield useful data." Which if you had said directly, rather than an obscure analogy (no, I didn't have to look it up, but I'm quite certain that 99% of the general population wouldn't know what it is, even if 10 out of 10 slashdotters would claim to know eveything, even if only because they Google it first), it may have been more clear. Unfortunately, I know the study you referenced quite well, so I immediately recognized the flawed analogy you were trying to pull off. If I were dumber, then maybe nobody else would have noticed. Perhaps it is you and your inductive reasoning that's substandard.

                • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:20PM (#43155933)

                  It seems you meant to say "I can't disagree with your statement that it's not valid, but even invalid experiments can yield useful data."

                  That's exactly how I read it as well.

                  The theory seems to be:
                  Nobody is plunking down pennies, but if we all pretend we were, we will see how such a payment system might work.

                  Unless or until there is an actual monetary collection mechanism the experiment is a bogus mind game. You would learn much more by putting a primate in a cage with three buttons which invoked a tiny, medium, and large swat with a newspaper when pressed. Even the dumbest monkey would press even the lightest swat inducing button more than one or two times. Even is the buttons induced nothing worse than an annoyingly bright light they would not push the buttons. If the buttons did nothing at all they would learn not to waste any effort pushing them.

                  So unless there is a penalty, newspaper or monetary, no amount of pretend button pushing will teach us anything.

      • by GigaplexNZ ( 1233886 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:13PM (#43155165)
        I'm still not sure how this is representative of real world usage. Is this site allowing full access where the user chooses after viewing it how much they think it's worth as a way of determining how much to charge for access in real world usage where you'd have to pay before viewing it? For me at the very least, pay before and pay after decisions will heavily skew how much I'm willing to pay.
        • No, it's entirely a tip jar approach, so if you read it and like it, you can opt to spend 3 cents to show your gratitude. Tip jars exist, of course, but because of fees etc, their definition of "microtransaction" is usually at least $1, which almost defeats the purpose. So what this is doing is saying: "Did you like what you just read/saw/heard? If so, how much?" And that's it. Down the line, someone else can figure out how to turn that into countless riches, but right now, I'm just interested to see how th

          • But according to this test, from the users perspective there is no difference between no tip, 1c 2c or 3c.
            I would happily give every site I visit 3c if it always costs me 0c.

            • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @11:05PM (#43155853) Homepage

              Ideally, you'd pretend it was real money, if only for calibration purposes, and act accordingly. This experiment is gathering information broadly, but also for you, specifically. So you can see what you'd spend, if you were spending.

              • Having someone pretend it is real money is not the same. Its like running the test against what people imagine how they should behave, not how they actually do. Quite different things.

            • by icebike ( 68054 )

              But according to this test, from the users perspective there is no difference between no tip, 1c 2c or 3c.
              I would happily give every site I visit 3c if it always costs me 0c.

              Its pretty much like clicking the "Like" button on a blog story. It costs you nothing, and that is exactly what you are willing to pay. Most people ignore them.

              But also consider that a similar experiment DOES happen in the real world right here on Slashdot.
              And further, the experiment actually HAS a tiny reward attached, and pretty much proves that not having to pay means that the vast majority won't.

              You don't have to subscribe to Slashdot in any monetary way, and you can still participate. But you CAN pa

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by noh8rz10 ( 2716597 )
        i think what you're doing is awesome! A potential approach / solution: first, have a service (I'll call it PayMe) where I can set up an account and automatically deposit $10 per month, or whatever number. Next, my browser has a plug in or whatever so when I visit a site the website knows that I'm a PayMe member and here's my account.

        here's the cool part: upon detecting I'm a PayMe member, it kicks me into a premium version of the site, say without advertisements or some other feature. Or perhaps it shows
        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          A potential approach / solution: first, have a service (I'll call it PayMe) where I can set up an account

          You should copyright it just so nobody else does. But I suspect you are too late.

          The Idea is good, and initially that is what Google Wallet was supposed to do, but they they got sidetracked with the Google app store and forgot about micro payments.

          Still 1 cent is too much. The payment should start at 1/10th of a cent and go to a maximum of no more than a dime.

          The transaction costs have to be managed very carefully. The cost of transferring a micro-payment from your account to the web-site's account has t

          • by plover ( 150551 )

            So those are all solvable problems. Want to set payment at 0.1 cents? Fine, call your pretend contributions "dimes not dollars".

            Micropayments would not be sent directly to the site, as the transaction fees would certainly kill them. So as a web surfer, I'd set up an account with MicropaymentsRus.com, and deposit some fixed amount of money into it on a monthly basis, making only one payment transaction per month. To pay the sites, they could set up a threshold system, where if donations exceed some amoun

  • Or (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:11PM (#43154651)
    Go back to when people had web sites as a hobby and not this SEO, per click revenue blog spam shithole we have today.
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      Too late, Geocities has closed.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        sadly most of those ugly looking geocities sites were easier to use and to the point than any of this overscripted web 2.x waste-of-whitespace bullshit we get now.

    • Re:Or (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:47PM (#43154983) Homepage Journal

      Books and libraries are still relevant because reviewed and edited content is valuable. I was looking for info on making model train layouts and there are loads of forums and hobbyist witted that look like they were built in 1998, but nothing with a complete illustrated tutorial using materials available in my country.

    • by stms ( 1132653 )

      I don't know about that I think people want professionally made content on the internet. I certainly do even if the vast majority of it is crap. Flattr was supposed to be a solution to make micro-payments easier to bad it never took off.

    • Several years back my blog [johnbokma.com] got quite some traffic and some friends convinced me to give AdSense a try. I did. Just before December. In January Google paid me 1200 USD... The following months I made over 700 USD/month. Over the years this dropped, and I guess it's now around 100 USD or so.

      My site is still a hobby, but when I made 700 USD/month with it, I was able to put a lot of extra time in it. And no, I am not going to do my hobby the way you want it; it's my hobby after all. If you're not happy with that

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        You're welcome to try to make money from it. I don't think anyone's suggesting you shouldn't. It's when someone in your position gets used to the idea of easy ad-driven cash flows and then whines when people start blocking the annoying scripts they require. Go ahead, make money with your site, but you don't have a right to whine about what happens once your content hits others' machines. Once that happens, your code is on their turf. They decide. The internet is not cable TV nor should it be. If you r

    • by sqrt(2) ( 786011 )

      I'm convinced that the entire online ad-based economy is a giant bubble, kept inflated by a fictional aether which is the mass delusion of the efficacy of advertisements. There's a saying that half of your advertising budget is wasted, but you can't know which half. Well what if it's closer to 90% wasted and people start to realize that?

      Many people don't even see the ads. The ones who do rarely click on them. The ones who do click rarely buy anything. Are those 1/100k people really worth a multi-billion dol

    • Go back to when people had web sites as a hobby

      How exactly would you fund YouTube as a 'hobby'? I well remember the WWW in 1995. No Thank You.

  • You need a system that uses real dollars or the results are meaningless. Let people donate to the ACLU or EFF or any other supporters of a free (as in soeech) Internet with the proceeds.

    I'd love to help create a real market without stuffing money in the pockets of marketing departments and other corporations that contribute little or nothing positive to my life. Let me know where to sign up.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:17PM (#43154699)

    The hard part is getting people onto some kind of platform that works and where friction and transaction costs don't eat all the money. If, theoretically, one existed, then maybe it'd be interesting when people click 1 cent or 3 cents; but a bigger issue is putting them in a position where they can easily click at all.

    The only micropayment-for-writing platform I've seen with significant uptake was Readability's now-discontinued experiment [technologyreview.com], and it worked (to the extent it did, though it's been canned, so perhaps not that well) because lots of people used Readability for other reasons. So it was more of a revenue-share that Readability was offering to any webmaster who wanted to sign up. I think you need something like that, a platform that people are already on for some other reason.

    • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:28PM (#43154809) Homepage

      I had a great discussion today about what "next steps" would be for this, pretty much encompassing your point above. The somewhat-decided gist is that there's some single place or service that handles the actual money. So for instance, you create an account there and drop $10 into it, and then just go browsing the web as usual, clicking the 1, 2 or 3-penny buttons built into your browser. At the end of each month (or thereabouts), the central organization pays each of the sites you supported, thereby dodging the "micro" aspect of the microtransaction. Sites themselves wouldn't have to sign up or support it, they'd just have to claim the money using some kind of verification process (that would be a nightmare in and of itself).

      Entirely voluntary on all fronts... which means it's basically impossible to implement, because there isn't a good profit margin in it :)

      • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:43PM (#43154943)

        Are you familiar with Flattr [flattr.com]? It's structurally quite similar to what you're discussing, so might be worth a look. One difference is that you don't pick how much you want to pay each site. Instead, you decide how much you want to spend per month total, and then you just flag sites with "pay this guy". Your monthly payment is divided equally among all flagged sites. So e.g. if you pay $1/month and click the button on 20 sites, they each get $0.05.

        Some pros/cons to that model, but one aspect that I think is a good idea in that approach is that it consolidates the "hump" of laying out expenditures to one decision, that of signing up for Flattr to begin with. Clicking on sites during the month doesn't cost you more, but just redistributes the money you already paid, so there may be less mental resistance to doing so. On the other hand, it also means there's no real way to signal that you liked both Things A and B, but A a lot more.

        • Indeed, Flattr is a really great idea. I kinda wish there was a way to, as you say, support A more than B, but the predictability of the billing would make me sleep better at night :)

        • by Zadaz ( 950521 )

          You might take a look at GitTip [gittip.com]. It's also a microtransaction platform, but different from Flattr. Patrons pledge from $0.25 to $25 a week to another person.

          I like the weekly pledge and the tiny amounts. The weekly pledge encourages people to keep up the good work while the small amounts... I can pledge $0.25 weekly to a lot of people before I miss that money from my bank account.

  • The data being collected has very little impact on real world results. If there is no cost, then people will simply click the 3 cent link when they remember to do so. Since it has no impact on their finances they won't think twice about it.

    Think about gaming sites that give you free unlimited chips to play poker with. People bet the max every hand no matter if they have 2-7 off suit or pair of aces. This completely destroys any comparisons to a real money game.

    • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:33PM (#43154849) Homepage

      I agree, but another aspect of it is: if you are playing along with absolutely no regard for what these buttons really represent, how will you feel at the end of a month, looking at what you've potentially spent? It could be "holy crap, I can't afford this," or it could be "that wasn't as bad as I thought." That's extremely interesting to me, all by itself. Then add in the "how much would this pay my favourite sites", and you've got a really interesting conundrum and/or solution.

      It's almost like "try before you buy", in a way. But purely for personal curiosity.

    • I beg to differ - in the first world, a 3 cent donation has very little to no impact on your finances. Even if you read 100 pages in a morning and they're all so good you remember to donate 3 cents, that's just $3 you've spent reading the morning news - less than the cost of a cup of coffee...

      • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
        $9 gets me around 40 cups of top grade organic coffee. You pay way too much. I would rather get ads from NewEgg letting me know about their newest deals than pay $3 to mostly crap sites.
        • You're missing the point.
          If the sites are crap, then you're not donating... If I could disable the ads on a given web page for $0.01-$0.03 and the content on the page was good enough, I'd be happy to do so.

          Where this all falls down is that it's not currently economically viable to process such small transactions...

  • Personally speaking, I block most ads, mainly because of bandwidth issues. Slashdot is one of the few that I whitelist, because I don't mind supporting them....
    • Whitelists are a fair idea in principle, but in practice malware-laden ads distributed by promiscuous ad networks are a problem. While reputable networks allow sites to tailor ad campaigns and block specific ads or types, they often trade spots among themselves which can result in bad ads slipping into rotation despite the safeguards. And 'bad' can range from 'loud, expanding Flash' to 'welcome to the botnet, comrade'.

      Sites that are particularly large, or under a big umbrella, Slashdot for example, can avoi

  • Don't some time share models give you points that you can use at any of their resorts. You pay a big fee once a year, get your points and visit all their properties you want until the points run out. No microtransactions, but tiny fees for each use.

    The issue is you would need a large set of useful sites and one payment area for all of them, something like cable or Netflix. You pay one company to get content from a bunch of different places.

  • Flattr (Score:2, Informative)

    by Acapulco ( 1289274 )

    Have you teried/seen Flattr [flattr.com]?

    I'm not affiliated with them or anything, I stumbled across that while reading a blog post and I liked the idea. I have yet to find a page that I would give a Flattr to, but the idea is compelling.

    • I hadn't, but now I have. I love that things like that exist, and I'm a bit sad I don't know about it already. Mindshare is a tricky thing.

      It's kinda the same concept, except I think they let you set a budget and it gets divvied up, whereas I'm talking more about pure pennies in use, so if you don't see anything of value in March, you don't actually spend anything. It's cheaper, sure, but I think most people would probably take issue with spending the same $10 every month, even if they didn't get much enjoy

    • Thanks for the link. Flattr looks great! I read up a bit more about it, and it was co-founded by Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of The Pirate Bay. (Just don't download the browser extension, as it sends every url you visit to flattr.)

      A quick search also brought up Kachingle [kachingle.com] and Sprinklepenny [sprinklepenny.com] as similar alternatives.
  • Mod Points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Master Moose ( 1243274 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:24PM (#43154769) Homepage

    I usually spend my mod points when /. award them to me.

    I have no issue with this. If I had to pay for Mods, there is no way I would have ever spent 1.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:28PM (#43154795) Journal

    that has been going strong for more than ten years?

    you are confusing slashdot commenters with slashdot users. commenters are, in general, a bunch of angry cranks who get a buzz out of spewing bile and hatred through their keyboard. slashdot users generally read the article (or the first sentence or two) and then do something productive with their life.

    paywalls do work for some content, otherwise places like the WSJ, slate, etc etc etc, wouldn't use them.

    and ebooks are doing a pretty good business on the kindle, nook, etc. even the Kobo survived the demise of Borders.

    and microtransactions work perfectly well (too well) in games - theres probably someone in publishing who has noticed this and has implemented/worked on integrating that into a website.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:33PM (#43154847)

      commenters are, in general, a bunch of angry cranks who get a buzz out of spewing bile and hatred through their keyboard.

      Shut the hell up.

    • Oh definitely, and I was one of the first onboard for Slashdot subscriptions, back in the day. But still, after those stats from Destructoid, I wondered if this quasi holy war that goes on between publishers and readers might have a more amicable solution. Instead of "stop spamming us!" / "you owe us!", there could be some "you did good" / "thank you!".

      OK, really, I'm just interested to see how much money I personally would spend in any given month, and I thought some Slashdotters might as well.

  • So...you submit something potentially interesting (for whatever reason... to each is own) and then.. don't expect it to be slashdotted? uhm... interesting. I'd like to suscribe to your newsletter MrAndrews.

    • I would like to subscribe to my newsletter too, but my site is down :(

      No, actually, it seems to be working. Though I bet my hosting bill will be FABULOUS this month!

  • by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:28PM (#43154803)
    ... no one can be bothered to click 2c or 3c every time they stumble on a useful page. It's extra mental processing that distracts from what they're really doing, and the fact a page is useful might not be apparent until much later, long after they have left it. What happens if you make a payment and the advice on the page later turns out to be crap? Then there is the question of who the micropayments are going too: Some struggling blogger or hobbyist (worth supporting), a tenured academic (who is already taken care of financially) or a big company who needs my 2c much less than I do. You will also have issues like hosted content: are the payments going to the author, or the webhost.

    Some sort of payment scheme is a good idea, but not like this. Often you'll find someone throw themselves into a freeware project and get disillusioned and abandon it when issues like paying the rent take precedence. I think the old 'Donate $5 with Paypal' is a good idea, if you can get rid of the Paypal, Visa, Mastercard or any other intermediary who might block payments. http://www.pcworld.com/article/242470/wikileaks_suspends_publication_because_of_financial_boycott.html [pcworld.com]
    • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) * <mcm.1889@ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:51PM (#43155013) Homepage

      EXACTLY this, actually. I mean, it'd be great if everyone clicked those buttons 15 times a day, but already today I've closed a tab and gone "doh! that was good! I forgot to click!"... and I set the bloody thing up. So yeah, there is friction in the model that is potentially unescapable and/or fatal.

      Also, I don't know that this is necessarily a business model anyone wants to depend on. It really requires you to be creating content that is not only good, but has enough reach that lots of people can see it, and like it enough to support it. It scales absolutely horribly, actually, for smaller acts. But then again, if you suddenly become popular, you could actually capitalize on your popularity, rather than just watching the views come and go.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is what I'd like to see (all open source of course):

        1. One or more non-profit tip distributors run by associations of websites. They take money from people and distribute them participating websites on request.

        2. Websites indicate their participation in the program with a special HTML tag in the head section (includes a unique ID/cheksum of the website).

        3. Plugins for all the popular browsers that:

        - Record visit history of participating websites locally.
        - Add a button to the browser that lets the user

        • Wow, that pretty much articulated everything I'd have wanted. The only thing I might change is the notion that you can still "like" a page on a non-participating website, so latecomers aren't punished. The tip distributor could hold the funds until they're claimed, meaning you're supporting the content you like, just maybe not as immediately as you might have liked.

    • True. It occurred to me many moons ago that the easiest way to achieve the desired outcome would be to pay people who upload data to the internet, and charge those who download.

      The difference between the upload and download rates would be the ISPs margin.

  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <paul@pjrc.com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:31PM (#43154829) Homepage Journal

    The trouble with microtransactions is they'll create an incentive for content publishers to "nickel and dime" readers.

    Just look at phone and tablet games with "in app purchase" models. A great idea in theory. In practice, it drives the entire game design from "pay to play" to "pay to win".

    If the content industry figures out how to make microtransactions work (a pretty big if)... just watch. Content will adapt from trying to attract and genuinely appeal to readers to a "nickel and dime" them to the maximum extent possible!

  • by Vreejack ( 68778 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:34PM (#43154857)

    Aaaand, it doesn't actually seem to work. Turns the current URL into file address, and adds that to your server IP,... For example, trying to use it on SMBC results in: "http://penny.1889.ca/www.smbc-comics.com/#comic", which results in a very good impression of a 404.

    • Ooo, good call. Thank you for catching that.

    • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 )

      The bookmarlets actually work (i.e. they add $0.01/whatever), but the resulting URL tries redirecting you back to the originating site but forgets that the URL points to penny.1889.ca.

      But still, something like that should be tested.

  • The real problem with "micro"-transactions comes from every goddamned site that tries them, doing their best to aggregate them back into macro (or at least normal) transactions.

    From site-specific microcurrencies - usually one dime or penny per unit - That you can only spend in multiples of 50 (aka "$5.00") or 500 (aka "$5.00") respectively, to tip jars that refuse to process under a buck or five, just about every site out there that takes "micro" payments refuses to actually take micro payments. And they
    • by Flentil ( 765056 )
      Why do some people call Wal-Mart "Wally World"? http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081023123342AAjStgd [yahoo.com]
    • No, no, no. It's the wallyworld cashier who is funny -- I just described it to you.

      That'll be $10--pay at the door. It wouldn't have been more than fifty cents, but I shouldn't have to explain the basics of humor to you. You're supposed to bring something to the table yourself, you know.

    • That you can only spend in multiples of 50 (aka "$5.00") or 500 (aka "$5.00") respectively

      Yeah, but that's only because the backing transaction network (credit cards, mostly) have very high transaction costs because the market is so heavily regulated and controlled that there's no competition to speak of.

      Do the micropayments in fractional bitcoins. Once there's a substantial amount in the wallet, then cash it out if need be. The GUI for the masses ought to be here pretty soon.

  • It doesn't work in the Android browser.

    • No, you need to go to the Play store and install the $3 app. ;->

    • Yeah, I admittedly only put minimal effort into building a bare-bones tool. Not entirely sure how to make it work in the Android browser, actually. Interesting predicament, especially since I'm guessing lots of people do a lot of their reading on mobile devices...

  • Slashdot has microtransactions in terms of a subscription. The problem I had with microtransactions is that it is just too expensive. Like the games I used to play where one could buy stuff to support the developers. The rates started very reasonable, one could have fun for a few bucks a month, but then the prices simply got too high. The support the developers needed was beyond my ability to pay.

    Slashdot was the same thing. i thought a subscription might last a while, but it ran out much faster than

  • Probably won't work. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:22PM (#43155251) Homepage Journal

    The reasoning here is sound, and the theory has been borne out over the past dozen years [openp2p.com] since this was written:

    A transaction can't be worth so much as to require a decision but worth so little that that decision is automatic. There is a certain amount of anxiety involved in any decision to buy, no matter how small, and it derives not from the interface used or the time required, but from the very act of deciding. Micropayments, like all payments, require a comparison: "Is this much of X worth that much of Y?" There is a minimum mental transaction cost created by this fact that cannot be optimized away, because the only transaction a user will be willing to approve with no thought will be one that costs them nothing, which is no transaction at all... micropayments create a double-standard. One cannot tell users that they need to place a monetary value on something while also suggesting that the fee charged is functionally zero. This creates confusion - if the message to the user is that paying a penny for something makes it effectively free, then why isn't it actually free?... users will be persistently puzzled over the conflicting messages of "This is worth so much you have to decide whether to buy it or not" and "This is worth so little that it has virtually no cost to you."

    Clay Shirky, 12/19/2000

    Read the whole piece -- it has tons of good info. (And it's an entertaining read.)

    • Damn, I think I even read that, way back when. I built a lot of my brainspace around his notions of the double standard, valuable and value-less content. I shall drop 3 cents on that now! :)

      Still, I take your point. At the same time, I had this really distressing moment a few weeks ago with some junior developers who were working on this-and-that, and I said to them with my wise, old experienced voice: "Oh you kids, that'll never work. We tried that back in '99 and it fell flat." And then they showed me tha

  • It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting.

    In this case, there should also be a 0-cent link so people can positively register that they didn't value the page at all. That someone would voluntarily take the time to provide negative feedback means more than simply ignoring the ad.

    • My thinking on the subject has evolved since my comment a bit further up, but I'm still not sure that's something we necessarily want to track. I mean, I definitely see your point, but in the end it would be like "5,000 people hate digg.com." I guess it shows that 5,000 people were there, COULD have paid but didn't, but it's a bit like throwing a piece of chewed-up gum into a street performer's hat. It says "you suck", but it's not entirely productive.

      On the other hand, if we were tracking individual pages

      • I guess it shows that 5,000 people were there, COULD have paid but didn't, but it's a bit like throwing a piece of chewed-up gum into a street performer's hat. It says "you suck", but it's not entirely productive.

        It's not entirely unproductive either :-) Sometimes unpleasant things need to be said. Sometimes advertisers need to be explicitly told that we don't want to hear, and/or are not interested in, what they have to say. I believe that silence can sometimes be construed as acceptance.

    • In the case where the money's fake, you should be able to go lower than zero. In fact, this might be a good idea even if we graduate to real money. To remain economic and strive for informational efficiency, we may have to combine these ideas: a positive penny leaves your account and goes into the recipient's, but a negative penny only affects "karma" (both yours and theirs).

  • People want free data, but hosting isn't free, so companies can offer "free" by extracting user usage-patterns and/or hosting ads.

    End users don't want ads, but you can't get your stuff for free. So offer micro-transactions! Oh, wait... Those can be tracked and have to be tracked, money can't just come from no-where.

    Someone responds, but something like bitcoin can allow anonymous transactions. Well, they don't need to track "you", just your habits. You're still no better off than where you were with ad
    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      In the end, web-sites need to make money

      Yet the web survived for years when hardly anyone was making money from it. And finding useful information was much easier than it is today, where there are a hundred ad-funded web scraping sites set up soley to make money for every actual, informative web site.

  • Paywalls are not a no-go idea. The problem is that nobody want to pay for content that is just refactoring of news from Reuters or AP that you find on a myriad of news sites.
  • ...and will there be a -€0.01 or -$0.01 option if that is truly how much a web page is worth after robbing me of 2 minutes of my life?

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.