The Current State of Micropayments and Web Monetization

The entire surface area of The Guardian’s UK Website is covered with ads and popups.

What exactly has changed?

In the web’s first decade, there were a few attempts at micropayment-like systems, but none of them were able to catch on. But the situation has gradually changed in the 20 years since.

Ebay and Paypal helped sellers get comfortable with the idea of selling individual items online.

Blockchains and Cryptocurrencies

One of the most important developments in recent years is the creation of the blockchain, a type of protocol which, rather than storing all of its values on one computer, stores identical data in countless places across the web.

Interledger

Interledger is a type of blockchain protocol, which can send payments between users with personal Web Wallets — sort of like digital bank accounts. It can easily translate payments from one currency to another — which gives it massive potential even outside of the web.

The Interledger Foundation is a non-profit advocate for the web, promoting innovation, creativity, and inclusion by advancing open payment standards and technologies.
Coil uses a new, open technology called Web Monetization to enables streaming micropayments — aka tiny fractions of a penny — to instantly flow to websites as you read, watch and listen.
Cinnamon uses web monetization to help creators monetize their videos without advertising.
Rafiki, an All-In-One Solution for Interledger Wallets.
Puma browser is the first browser with native support for Coil and Interledger.

NFTs

Non-Fungible Tokens are a recent innovation which uses the same decentralized methods as cryptocurrencies. NFTs are designed to ensure there is only a limited number of a particular set of data, while also ensuring the original creator is credited each time the file changes hands.

Image from https://www.wtffinance.com/
  • “The Switch” is a piece of 3D artwork which will be expanded and edited by the creator in the future — allowing the owner of its NFT to watch the work as it develops.
  • Comedian Todd Montesi incorporates his NFTs into the plot of his webseries PN & Friends. The idea is to give the pieces extra value to his fans, by expanding on the backstory of each using jokes and storytelling.
  • Music services like Rarible and Mintbase are exploring the idea of letting artists mint their songs as NFTs — which hypothetically could create a system where musicians are fairly compensated any time their work is played.
  • Friends with Benefits (FWB) is a social community using ethereum-based tokens for access and rewards.
Unlock Protocol is a protocol that allows anyone on the web to provide NFT-based memberships to their communities.

Micropayments in Action

With all of these micropayment-adjacent technologies being developed, the field is ripe for new forms of monetization.​

Skittish allows people to talk with each other in the form of small animals in a virtual environment. Image courtesy Skittish.

Conclusion

Of course, not everyone is going to be interested in web monetization technologies the first time they hear about them. As with any new solution, it might take a few years until the average person has heard about these concepts enough times to understand their potential.

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Amber Case

Amber Case

Design advocate, speaker and author of Calm Technology. Research Fellow at Mozilla Foundation, Advisor at Puma Browser and Unlock Protocol.