Other users than you will be able to mix and match, too: better and more private ads on sites they don't support, with a revenue share to these users that they can spend on sites they do.
We aren't saying "only ads". We do see ads as a necessary funding model for much of the web today. I would love to see micropayments replace ads. Let's see what can be done.
Stuff I do pay for: educational content (books, courses etc), Spotify, Netflix.
You're obviously much more deeply invested in this and have done the maths. I am curious, what percentage of web users do you calculate will use the micro-payments, if it was a seamless perfectly executed experience? How much revenue do you think it will generate and will it be enough to disrupt web-ads?
I do the same thing, but I realized a while back there is a flaw in this model. It means the available creative works—which in turn effectively means the engine of culture—is determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.
I don't have "free" time. I paid for that time by buying a more expensive house close to where I work, spending less time shopping by not chasing the best deal, paying others to do home and car repairs, etc. etc. etc.
People who aren't as financially lucky as me don't have that opportunity. I'm not crazy about the idea of living in a world where those people don't get to participate in determining culture.
From where I sit, that's the problem ad-supported media has, not the other way around.
Look at TV before Netflix/iTunes/etc. came along. It was pretty much a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming that was created based on who sold the most ads. It left out large sections of the population (minorities, women, LGBT, etc.) for the most part, relegating them to stereotypes, if they were mentioned at all. It also limited content that discussed topics that were unpleasant to the media gateways. (I've heard it said that NBC News wasn't allowed to discuss nuclear power at all because GE, which owns NBC, was in that business and didn't want any bad press from their own company.)
Now a television show on Netflix/HBO/etc. can discuss topics that it wants without having to worry about whether a sponsor might drop out, or they might offend someone, or because they didn't appeal enough to the mainstream.
Removing ads has freed media. The current system isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than 3 major networks pumping out sitcoms about white fat guys married to beautiful women.
You can bitch all you want about the poor state of journalism, but the institutions that are trying to maintain it in a market where no one wants to pay for it are struggling. People won't pay subscriptions (the majority), don't want ads, but still want all that content.
The startup/software development equivalent is open source but that only works for largely one group of people: well off white males.
I think that undermines your point: Netflix and iTunes are paid content channels. TV used to be freely broadcast over the airwaves (still is, but used to be too) and needed to earn money exclusively from advertising.
Netflix and iTunes were not the beginning of that trend. It started when cable TV came along, and began selling subscription access to content like HBO, Showtime, etc. which have no ads. The differentiator with Netflix and iTunes was the ability to stream TV over the Internet, and consequently pay for it without bundling it into cable, and paying for individual shows/movies a la carte.
It's also taken a while for Netflix and Amazon to begin offering their own premium content. HBO has been in operation since the 1970s, though to be fair its critical mass really began in 1999 with The Sopranos. Netflix introduced streaming TV in 2007 and received its first real primetime Emmy nominations for its own content in 2013 (House of Cards)
In 2015, HBO received 126 Primetime Emmy nominations (Game of Thrones), the most of any network, a spot HBO has held for 15 years in a row according to NYT. That year, Netflix received 34 nominations and the nascent Amazon Studios garnered 12 (Transparent).
You're describing the vast majority of the content on Netflix today.
Would you agree that there doesn't exist a similar or better way to obtain the highest quality programming? Netflix has a library (and interface) that many people have found sufficiently entertaining and edifying to the point that they'll drop all traditional content delivery platforms for it. It also doesn't have any ads beyond its contents' meta data like cover art, top casting, ui / categorization choices, etc.
In able to access the opposite of crap-fest content, let's call it quality content, how is a person to reasonably find it and then consume it? Affordably and conveniently with a minimum amount of time searching? Especially with the never-ending flood of content, much of it inspired by the need to sell or be famous? There's just not enough time in the day to hunt for quality content for many, many people.
It seems like Netflix is a better thing in comparison to what came before it, and ads are notably absent. What is the best version of content provision to the 7bil+, and why is it taking so long / so hard to implement?
Personally, seems like a clear win to me towards that system is to automate away the middleman. :)
No, cable or satllite both provide a greater breadth of highest quality programming. The cost and licensing terms are rough but it's a hell of a content offering
Further, it's not like ads have been some democratizing element for cultural creation. They pay a pittance for everyone but the large traffic generators. No one is quitting their job at Denny's to become a full time blogger paid by google adwords. The independent instagram/youtube/blogger "celebrities" all still keep full time jobs until they get enough sponsorship to pay the bills.
That's still true. Writing for the web is generally a low-paying job. It would be even lower if the media properties went out of business.
The word “amateur” used to be a positive thing, meaning that an amateur really had the time to get to know their field and weren’t distracted by the business side of things.
"Oh, look at this hedge, it was trimmed by professionals, they damaged every single branch."
"Hey, look at how they painted the door, there's paint over the hinges and even the lock is stuck with it. That's professional work."
"Oh, my basic tool that [big software editor] forces me to use leaks 1Gb memory per hour. That's professional software (developed by the nephew of the trainee)."
So basically, for me, "professional" refers to a work that was done with great efficiency, but time and money spent were the only metric of this efficiency. Quality, attention, precision, thought about the consequences, the future were not part of the parameters.
Despite the poor reputation of advertising in "art" circles, quite a few visual artists blurred the frontiers between the two. For craftsmen, it doesn't matter as long as they can use their skills to make something—and they need the money, too. I understand the bad rap advertising gets, especially online, and wonder why it is still seen as the dominant revenue model on the web. Still, I'd love to read cases of significant artists who used advertising to fund their art.
It's interesting that almost every reply to my comment assumes a binary viewpoint. I responded to a single sentence of the parent comment. I never claimed to be on the "opposing team" of the comment's author.
But, to answer your question, the reporting of the Watergate scandal comes to mind.
I can't see why those users couldn't publish through a network that charges for access but guarantees a high bar of quality (both content and browsing experience). Think of something like Medium, with opt-in micropayments... possibly even mix in a social element, so friends of the creator get free access.
We have, culturally, decided that art is worth very little, and this is the (inevitable? I don't know) result.
Also imho micro-payments won't solve that problem. It is a much deeper structural problem.
I'm not about to claim that it's in any way an ideal or better, but isn't this how 90% of the literature, and maybe more often art, that we know hold as sacred parts of history, were created?
I wonder how well a system like reddit gold would work for webpages - if an article was particularly fascinating or insightful or entertaining I could hit a button to give them a dollar or something else (maybe I set a budget of $20 at each month so I don't over or under-pay what I "think" I value media at). If enough people did this, wouldn't this start driving quality back up? Wouldn't it suddenly be transparent the value people see in an article in dollar terms? Who would make the first Million Dollar article?
Granted it never took off like it wanted to, but Patreon operates on a similar model and is absolutely booming right now. Several comic artists I'm aware of have been able to quit their jobs and go full-time on the strength of Patreon alone--A Ghost Story, for example. So it's definitely not true that micropayment services always fail.
Welcome to feminism. Women have done untold amounts of uncompensated labour throughout history. What is the value of all that?
Capitalism favours those whose labour has a high monetary value assigned to it. It leaves everybody else out in the cold. I find it extremely frustrating that those who have been shunted from column A into column B have resorted to crab mentality instead of becoming critics of capitalism.
Quality content that requires you to go to Afghanistan to actually understand and report the situation on the ground is not written by people who write as a hobby. In depth political analysis generally isn't either. That's because going to Afghanistan, or understanding the internal structure of politics are full time jobs.
Unless we find a way to pay people to do these jobs, we'll be eating the writings of people hired by those with money and vested interests. The PR agencies hired to sell us war, or political talking points.
"Unless we find a way to pay people to do these jobs, we'll be eating the writings of people hired by those with money and vested interests."
I suspect it may have been the point of your comment but that's exactly what we are already doing.
I have another example. The Irish Times (one of Ireland's leading broadsheet newspapers) bought myhome.ie for €50m euros in 2007. The Irish Times had a huge daily property section at the time and was profiting greatly, riding on the crest of the wave of the property bubble. They also received uncountable millions from the banks to advertise the ridiculous 110% mortgages etc within the pages of their daily paper. I'll let you guess how much content that was critical of the property boom was published within their pages and how long it took for them to do any investigative journalism into the fraudulent behaviour of the banks whose ad budgets were sustaining them.
Capitalism and the truth are not compatible. Too many vested interests everywhere. War journalists can't be critical because they will lose access. Everyone is tip-toeing about scared to set a foot wrong incase it dries up their income supply (or at least removes the circumstances which allows them to earn a living). We've hit saturation point and all this disruption through internet and automation is a godsend in the long run but will cause much suffering in the short term.
OK, so blog posts are of almost no value to you. But a bit of music and some TV shows, that's where the really productive, transformative stuff happens whose creators deserve a few bucks..
I generally find that I'm better off spending an hour researching books to purchase on a non-programming subject than I am spending that hour Googling for free content on that subject.
I have payed nothing to the people on youtube who shown me how to fold a shirt, do my hair, make pasta easily, chop food like a chef or whatever else I needed help with; granted those aren't writing per-say, but a decade ago I would have found that information in a blog.
I won't pay for writing, I will pay for a fact-checker, but so far that only seems necessary on highly-technical books.
Where are most of these ads? What "content" is making all that money?
You've seen it. 95% (or more) is nearly spam. Or actual spam in some way or another. It's all those listicles ("The 10 best X"), or these photo image traps (there was a name for them, the "You won't believe bla this celebrity something embarrassing mistake").
I didn't consent to buying that. And I most definitely will not spend my precious currency of attention on it.
Do we all recall the bad old days of blackhat SEO, linkfarms and all that crap? It's still going on but I call it the bad old days because it used to be you couldn't research stuff on the Internet without bumping into those things all the time.
Do we remember how a lot of these things worked? I've always had a morbid fascination for those things, some were such weird places. Initially it just started with endless algorithmically generated pages linking to pages in ways that exploited Google's classic PageRank algorithms. Google got wise to that, so the blackhat SEOs sprinkled in some content. Google got wiser, and at some point (this was still when About.com was a serious "competitor" to Wikipedia) there were actual humans churning out tiny "content" articles, 300 words, really about almost anything, just a few paragraphs, puke a few words on any topic you could possibly imagine and people would get a tiny pay for writing it and into another SEO-machine they went, extracted keywords linked to all the things and back to spam.
That's not the type of content industry we want to support, right? But THIS is what happened. Of course Google Ads got wise-ish to that as well, and over time this content-farming industry kept incrementing the content quality of their spam just enough until the listicles that nobody ever asked for are just barely good enough that the public will actually swallow it.
And that is what we have today, and there is no real economic incentive to get any better. Maybe a tiny bit better, but remember this trash grew organically from the economic incentives of spam. It's never going to grow into the awesome well-researched high quality articles everybody is furiously imagining when they talk about an ad-supported content web or micropayments or whatever.
It's a mistake.
Ads never really significantly supported high quality content publishers, most of the really great content on the Internet has always been on free websites. If you don't believe me it's because the ad-networks never linked you there or you never thought to look. The vast majority of these ad-networks, all what they ever gave us was spam and economic incentives for more spam. And micropayments are not going to be any different.
You're imagining growth the wrong way. The only thing that will grow is the spam, and it'll get a bit "better quality" if it makes more money maybe but there's no reason for it to grow until it reaches the actually good quality. You get a pretty mushroom growing from the fungus.
All of the higher quality content websites with nice chewy articles, that figured out a way to be financially supported by their audience, none of them do it with ads. It doesn't make them nearly enough money to account for the readers put off by it. And that's not an "oh eww! this otherwise-quality-article has an ad on it, I'll just go read something else", no that's of course silly. It's the image of the thing. Having a big, ugly, ad-network operated ad right next (or inside) your otherwise-quality-article diminishes the value of it. Having to cut up that article into multiple pages for no reason other than boosting pageviews, diminishes the value.
Write a great article, inject it with ads, becomes a mediocre article. If you don't believe me, imagine you found a cool programming tutorial on some topic you find interesting. The tutorial is split into multiple small pages, content making up less than 33% of the screen, and browsing back and forth between pages is slow because of all the 3rd party components and ubiquitous JS frameworks. Then imagine the same tutorial on one page, written in markdown, on github pages or whatever, and that's it. Value? To me it's an order of magnitude difference. So much difference that I've occasionally taken that content, copypasted and reformatted into a nice quiet format, strictly for personal use, as alternative to bookmarking. The value of the time it cost me to do that is actually worth several orders of magnitude more than what I would ever pay for an article.
Maybe the publisher doesn't even care, ultimately the writers do. Sure, from a rational economical financial free-marketable point of view it just makes business sense to trash high-quality articles with ads until the costs and benefits line up sufficiently that any more trashing would just be done out of sadistic glee. But writing is a creative process. It's not all about money. And if you keep that up, you're gonna kill the creativity regardless, because all you end up with is regurgitated contentfarm poop, the worst of both worlds, no actual quality content and a world of ads. I'm a creative person, I create content just for the heck of it. I never needed to rationalize why I hate ads. I know why they are bad and what happens when I let them near my creative processes.
Sorry this post got a bit long :-)
I don't know much about the technical reality of it, but I've thought that an effective micropayments system could be revolutionary, one of thhe most important innovations in tech:
1) It could be a way of financing an incredible amount of essential work that current funding models fail, because the payments are one-off and not worth the high trasaction costs (in fees and user time). Think of art (how do you pay for an amazing digital image) to music (pay for one song) to journalism (how do you pay for one article) to games to FOSS code to expert Q&A to much more. Financing these endeavors could lead to much more and much better.
2) It can solve much of the privacy problem, assuming the micropayments are cash-like and not tracked. I hope anonymity, which you mention in your comment, and all aspects of confidentiality are being designed and built in as core functions.
3) It could enable automated rights clearinghouses in many fields. Do you want to use part of that code/song/etc. in your work? No need to contact the rights holder and negotiate a contract, an impossibly high transaction cost for most, just use the micropayment system. Much of art in the digital age is, or should be, collage. As they say, 'good artists borrow, great artists steal'.
In my mind, it could be the most important IT innovation for culture, code, and many other aspects of society.
(key takeaway from that article: people are moving away from micropayments where they already exist (e.g. music) to subscription models. It doesn't work)
First, micropayments are less than a penny (the "micro" part). Anything 25 cents is just a payment.
Second, 25 cents means I can quickly bump into my monthly/yearly maximums and have to start cutting back on my reading each month and year end. I don't want to go each October-December without being able to read the web just because I overspent on marginal articles earlier in the year.
The model that will work (for me anyway) is one like Netflix. I pay essentially a yearly fee and can consume as much as I want. Bingeing, if you will, when I desire. But only if, again like Netflix, a significant portion of the web is included. If I have to pay for five or six subscriptions it's a no-go because it gets too expensive.
So even for things worth a quarter, a real micropayment system would be a boon.
Now, the problem with things like Blendle, the iTunes store, etc., is that even with my definition of micropayments, they're not that useful, because they lock you into that vendor: you have to have an account with them, and you basically have a "tab" with them (much like going to a bar) that you build up, and eventually get billed for and pay all at once, so that they don't get socked with giant fees. This, obviously, only favors large players: Apple can afford to sell you $1 movies and songs this way, because it keeps you coming back to their store, but this doesn't help sellers who want to sell stuff on their own, outside of some giant player like that (who of course takes a gigantic cut of the proceeds for selling on their store).
A real micropayment system would let buyers and sellers exchange pennies at a time, with extremely low fees. PayPal got us a little closer to this by letting small sellers easily establish an account and get money from buyers (using their credit cards), without having to pay huge fees for a traditional merchant account. But PayPal gets socked with the same fees from Visa/MC as everyone and passes them on, so you still have to pay the same $0.30+3% per transaction. A micropayment system would have to bypass Visa/MC altogether. We'll never have micropayments, or lower fees of any kind, as long as we're stuck with the Visa/MC cartel.
I would be willing to pay for a service that tracked each site I visited and billed me at the end of the month at a price-per-pageview comparable to CPM prices today.
EDIT: This is very distinct from asking me to pay 20 cents each time I want to open a particular page. The time I would spend considering whether to open a particular page or not isn't worth 20 cents, without regard to the fact that 20 cents/view is easily 100 times over the going rate for a page view.
I'm currently involved with a project called SatoshiPay (https://satoshipay.io/), which tries to solve just this headache by enabling micropayments (down to fractions of cents) from a Bitcoin wallet that's created automatically straight in the browser. Still early days, but I believe this could be a user-friendly solution to the micropayment problem.
Very happy to see the principal agent problem on the web stated so clearly. I've been calling it the tragedy of the commons in comments here and elsewhere. Thanks!
 And security and privacy, they're the basic minimum the world needs, right? Grandparent seems too quick to dismiss them.
I suspect it's also due to developers getting and using the latest hardware (i.e. top range Mac Book Pros) and as long as it works on their machine, with all bells and whistles, they don't care about any of their users with slower machines. Same with phones - older phones are out of date because the updated apps get bloated and bloated for them but are not bloated for the developers.
I hope we can push the Graphics team to enable hardware acceleration on Linux eventually, too. :)
I mean, authors would have to kiss the asses of the readers and try to be as friendly to their preconceptions as possible and make them feel like they are buddies.
Most donations are done based on emotions. So now we'd have distorted content, catering to the online hivemind even more than today.
> We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.
That's in my opinion the interesting part. I would not maintain a browser for that reason, especially not for the .5% geeks that value that stuff. Directly supporting your favourite content creators would be an awesome thing. There already are micropayments providers like flattr or google contribute but they have different goals (flattr) or different approaches (google).
I'm just not sure if a for-profit organisation would be the right way to do this in web-land.
The ad-supported Internet is one of the few places where wealthy people and poor people are on equal footing, where children can still explore without parental permission, and adults can explore without constantly asking themselves "is this worth it?".
I imagine micropayments will be exactly the sort of problem people decry in Facebook's Free Basics, where large companies can afford to give access to their sites for free, while small website operators are forced to live in their walled garden or charge micropayments (and fade into obscurity).
I also think it's kind of weird how many people like the idea of micropayments for websites when we've seen firsthand what it did to gaming, and especially mobile gaming.
I too am hopeful for a better system that can replace advertising, but I don't think micropayments are that system.
Just wanted to throw my $0.02 out there. A browser company will obviously be the next google. Advertising makes no sense as a monetization strategy in any capacity. World wide web is an RSS feed and browsers currently only a feedparser not reader.
What new browser will solve
* crawlers are being banned and info is mich more protected.
* ads are being blocked more aggressively.
* corpus of sites too massive to provide relevent help as singular units.
* discovery biggest problem on internet again, sites like HN and reddit proof.
How browser makes money
Companies have websites that provide data, browser provides digested and concatenated info to user.
User pays search engine browser for data & processing which is paid to websites.
As good content and info become more fragmented this will be valuable.
* provides data directly (skips results returns info)
* privacy by design, user pays for their own crawl index (basically AWS for data.
* parse and rank data like pandora
1. User can get their own corpus and filter it (subset of master)
2. Websites and aggregators sell data to platform (indexed data sets, indexing tools, or a sub corpus)
3. Users can buy or subscribe to these on platform market.
4. User information, parse heuristics, corpus ranking, etc are sent to private db setup for user. Data is requested from browser ==> user processing ==> main corpus (if not cached/get balance of non cached items) <== fetched raw data returned then processed and indexed according to users needs/algorithims then data returned to user.
Entire ecosystem product. You could build this.
in particular discovery is terrible - its worst - much worse than the altavista days. People don't seem to realize that 99.9% of the people see 0.0..1% of the content, always the same content, for all.
a browser that block all ads, trackers, etc can indeed provide the user data for a fee, since the browser always has access to all the data. not sure how it would access its own crawl index though, ie where does the index comes from?
Right now, its google...
However, like googlebot, the browser will of course be the actual crawler. Page requests are cached at the databank level, then at the users partition.
The problem is that the web is an rss feed but sites (with valuable info) are blocking crawlers, except google. This creates informational asymmetry.
Since almost all search engines try to emulate page rank, we dont have diversified results, however all our search info is aggregated.
The browser wont "block" adds because it won't ever return websites. It will literally only return (how I imagine v1) to return html snippets and they can be iterated over rapidly.
Tracking won't matter. I haven't worked out exactly how to do it, but i think that you will own a piece of a corpus (essentially there is one corpus, but you have it sort of mirrored to your silo) you can make requests to the corpus to fetch data or to go out into the internet and get raw data. It is returned to your cache (and the global one) then your processing is done locally.
* browser is the feedreader, network and platform
* users sell bots and crawlers to users
* users sell sorted data sets to users
* users sell algorithims to users
* browser is a market maker
Storage so cheap processing power is so good a 20gb cache of data can sit locally. And you can fetch newer data or swap it out for other stuff. You also can store post-processed analytical data in the cloud
Site owners have to opt-in to the system obviously, if for no other reason than that they have to receive the payments somehow.
So what will you do if I selected ad-free browsing and am willing to pay but the site doesn't support your system? Refuse to load the page? Do not block ads and override my decision? Block all ads and override the site owners decision?
What I object to are invasive ad networks that try to track me all over the internet and build a comprehensive profile of my identity and online activities. As far as I'm concerned THAT is the problem browser companies need to be addressing.
I don't understand why Firefox/Apple/Microsoft haven't been pushing this angle. They could strike a blow against their rival Google, and for their users, in the same stroke.
To use micropayments, I'd need to fund via Bitcoin or another anonymous method. Even cash in the mail, I suppose. Also, I'd want to buy per article, but I wouldn't want to substantively interrupt the flow of browsing, or think very much about the amount. Ideally, I'd like to be quoted payment amounts that just won against bids by advertisers.
> better = more relevant to the things I might want.
In my mind advertising serves 3 roles:
1. informational - this product exists and costs X
2. branding - X is really good at design, Y cares about the environment
3. generate new market/demand - cigarettes are cool, diamonds are about love, you smell bad so you should use deodorant
Targeting is only really suited for #1. 2 & 3 are about social signaling and crafting a narrative about a product. For example, seeing an ad for the Economist would have stronger signaling ("this is for important people") if you saw it on your boss' screen - not your own. There's an article that goes into much more detail about this idea - but in my mind non-targeted advertising would be valuable if it was about brand-association and location (as in traditional media).
Edit: as an interesting side-note, click through rates are utterly meaningless for #2 and possibly #3. What matters is what the audience thinks and feels about the ad and the product/brand, not whether they buy it on the spot. Here, intrusive advertising destroys value by associating a brand with a negative experience (popups, rollovers, etc.)
Case in point - I connected to smh.com.au and since I have connected to it yesterday (only two times!) it has accessed 91 third party sites. 91! It's ridiculous.
PS: I am not the author, I like the idea, so I have a complete white list of sites in the webview.
Clay Shirky's got some good additions.
The solution I'm leaning strongly toward is a large-scale, preferably universal, content syndication / payment system. The big problem seems to be the getting there from here part (as usual), and some sort of super-aggregator (possibly Google, Amazon, Apple, or Facebook) might lead the way. Though I'm heartened that other minds superior to my own seem to find the same solution attractive: Phil Hunt (Pirate Party UK) and Richard M. Stallman (FSF/GNU).
My own, with some background:
Why information goods and markets are a poor match
This is an amazing option.