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I get your point, and it is a good one. We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.

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.

I fall into the camp of blocking all ads because frankly I don't like them. They are visual pollution. I also doubt I would pay for written content (maybe on a very rare occasion I might) if given a micro-payments solution because it doesn't seem worth paying for. I write blog posts from time to time and I do it for pleasure because I enjoy writing about things that interest me and sharing it with others. Honestly I don't feel any compulsion to fund any of the media whose links bombard my social media daily. Even some of the good stuff on this site I wouldn't feel compelled to pay for because truly it isn't transformative and I would probably be better off not reading it and doing something productive instead.

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 write blog posts from time to time and I do it for pleasure because I enjoy writing about things that interest me and sharing it with others.

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.

>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.

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're missing the point that people are paying for Netflix/HBO as a premium/luxury service while many in this thread claim they won't even pay for content they like and will instead just ad block.

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'm not totally convinced that people actually "want" all that ad-supported content, if in this case we're talking about Internet articles and television programs. We consume it when it's there and easy to obtain, but that's a pretty low bar in terms of wanting something. Who's to say that we wouldn't find better uses for our time if all of that content disappeared? Maybe something we actually cared about enough to pay for?

Find a better use of your time and, for you at least, the content will disappear. Voila.

It happens even faster if you consume it and block all ads embedded. And sometimes there are even hidden gems between crap content!

> Look at TV before Netflix/iTunes/etc. came along.

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).

> It was pretty much a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming

You're describing the vast majority of the content on Netflix today.

the vast majority of Netflix's content is a crap-fest of lowest-common-denominator programming

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. :)

Would you agree that there doesn't exist a similar or better way to obtain the highest quality programming?

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

It describes the vast majority of everything. The key point to realize is that it's a different vast majority for everybody.

Careful about letting "perfect" be the enemy of "good enough". Culture has always been determined by people who are well off enough to spend time on it. Even the people who are commissioned creators (Dickens was paid by the word, Mozart had aristocratic sponsors) spent thousands of hours working for free to get to the point where anyone would pay them.

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.

> spent thousands of hours working for free to get to the point where anyone would pay them.

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.

> determined almost entirely by people who are well-off enough to have the free time to do that.

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.

I still consider it this way because it means someone loves, cares about what he is doing, and generally does not have much delay pressure, which allows him to take time to refine his word. And I use the word "professional" in a depreciative way.

"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.

Which significant cultural works have been ad-funded?

Imagine if instead of libraries we made literature accessible to everyone by inserting ads, including "native ads" and product placements in the stories! Egads!

Excellent point. Libraries are public services. They're funded by private groups and governments. But it's not just about charity. There's an expectation of social benefit, which indirectly benefits even private funders.

Good question. The jury might still be out on this one though. You could argue one way or another, as it depends on what is your definition if advertising. Advertising is not art but the industry used to have its share of regretful artists. Some artists in the 20th century, like Andy Warhol, made publicity the whole point of their art. It is common for film directors to raise money trying their hand at advertising before shooting features.

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 not as fuzzy a question as you make out. People like Warhol and Koons may have satirised consumer culture, but this is completely different to the assumption that quality content can/must be funded by an advertising business model for some reason - there aren't even any examples of this (beyond Michael Jackson Pepsi videos and similar).

I never said I like ad-funding, nor that I dislike it.

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.

Do you think no TV shows were significant cultural works before the creation of cable TV?

While a good point, "good" (as in critically acclaimed) television is disproportionately from networks like HBO, BBC and Netflix that are supported by other means.

> 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.

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.

Because the current market value of that content appears (for reasons that I personally find pretty bullshit, but I'm not the decision-maker here) to be a pittance.

We have, culturally, decided that art is worth very little, and this is the (inevitable? I don't know) result.

Some art costs a lot. The vast majority of art is total garbage by any subjective or objective standard, to the extent that you would have to pay people to take it (negative value). The worth of art is on something like a power law distribution.

You make a very valid point. I think there are other solutions to this problem.... strangely I had already just decided to make it the topic of my next post before reading your comment.

Also imho micro-payments won't solve that problem. It is a much deeper structural problem.

> 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'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?

Isn't it interesting the level of monetary value we put on most written content on the web (nothing) vs the time we spend reading said valueless content? Is it truly so valueless, or is it only valueless because similar content isn't worth anything? I click on the links I click on because I think they'll have more value to me than the rest of them, but I'm still not to the threshold of reaching any monetary value, only my attention.

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?

What you are describing is called Flattr. It was launched in 2010 and never went anywhere, like every other micropayment service.

Flattr is still running and is used by more than a few major webcomics (presumably other sites as well, I've only really looked at it for webcomics).

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.

Yup,a huge amount to of my artist friends are on it. Honestly it sounds like the best option - you take the "whales" who are hyper engaged with your content and have them fund it. If the new york times had a system where you could get benefits, no ads, and some exclusive access or perhaps editorial votes for a relatively high monthly fee I'll bet they'd get a LOT of takers.

That is not correct. Blendle in the Netherlands is growing in leaps and bounds and has 250000 users who PAY to read good content. https://launch.blendle.com/

Interesting but not surprising that it existed. Reddit gold works because they have hundreds of millions of users and it probably barely pays the bills. Many smarter people have tried tackling the problem, but I don't think drastic online economic changes can grow organically without some sort of catalyst. Maybe if a browser like the one linked in the OP could get enough of a userbase that it becomes a force.

Flattr was a product of the Pirate Bay crew; they had an audience, it just didn't work out.

A lot of value comes from being written our of passion or a desire to share and not a desire to have me click on ads.

they've already got your time in an attention economy

Isn't it interesting the level of monetary value we put on most written content on the web (nothing) vs the time we spend reading said valueless content?

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[0] instead of becoming critics of capitalism.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality

Quality technical content is written by people who enjoy it for free. This is not generally true for other quality content.

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.

Generally all 'in-depth' political analysis is terrible propaganda. The best Afghanistan content I've seen has been documentaries such as Armadillo. I'll pay to watch that (through Netflix for example).

"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.

Even some of the good stuff on this site I wouldn't feel compelled to pay for because truly it isn't transformative and I would probably be better off not reading it and doing something productive instead. [..] Stuff I do pay for: [..] Spotify, Netflix.

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..

Media got worse as the revenue streams dried up; if you pay for writing, you can expect much better writing.

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.

Sure, I buy books all the time. That is very different to the bubblegum content I read online which would fall under the micro-payments model though.

Bubblegum content appeared in direct response to the death of the traditional revenue streams.

I disagree. Newspapers were always terrible and full of heavily biased content. Same for most magazines.

I have payed nothing for PGs essays or slate star codex epically detailed tear-downs of published studies. They are among the best writing I have read.

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.

It's a shame folks have downvoted this. It's a very useful and good point. Much of the free content is vastly better than paid content, and most of the free content also does not contain ads. There are remarkably few sources of paid content that justify their cost, even when that cost is as low as simply paying some of my attention to an ad.

Same here but I've purchased pg'a book and most books of writers I like follow on the web.

Your quality bar is extraordinarily, painfully low.

If ads on the web are to be considered "payment" for all the "content" we're consuming on the web, like everybody seems to keep repeating--yes, I disagree--have a look all this "content" that it's supposedly buying us.

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 :-)

Long but spot on!

> I would love to see micropayments replace ads.

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.

Micropayments already exists for journalism in the form of Blendle and others. It isn't as effective as you might hope:


(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)

Blendle is NOT micropayments. I looked at Blendle the other day when someone posted about it. Blendle wants you to pay 25 cents for an article and then, after reading about it, think and decide if it was worth the money or if you want a refund.

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.

Right. The micropayment needs to be about the same as the ad income would have been. And it needs to be virtually automatic. Just a pop-up saying that reading would cost $0.013 and asking for confirmation. There'd be a browser plugin that handled payments. And payments, of course, would need to be anonymous and not trackable.

I'm sorry, I have to disagree about micropayments. For most people (including people in finance), micropayments are anything less than 1 dollar. $0.25 is most definitely a micropayment. The reason is simple: with any payment processor, your per-transaction fee is something like $0.30 + 3% of the transaction. So a $0.30 sale nets you zero, because it's all taken up by the fee, and anything less than that will cost you money. For transactions under a few dollars, these fees are absolutely prohibitive.

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.

Good points.. One part of the solution is even to get rid of all bank involvement in the micro transaction itself. A prepay approach helps you doing so. The second part of the solution is to still not drop essential aspects such as security to still maintain the claim of being a payment system. This is what we have done at milliPay in Switzerland. If you are interested in having a chat, let me know. Best, Gerrit

Subscription models and micropayments are not mutually exclusive, as in Spotify - you pay a subscription fee to listen to unlimited music. In practice that is the same as paying a fraction of a cent to the artist each time you listen to a song.

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.

This service already exists (in the form of Google Contributor).

or Flattr.

...though publishing subscription paywalls are now disappearing

Micropayments have been the holy grail online for which everybody from the core web protocols working groups, to IBM to Ted Nelson's project Xanadu have been searching. It's a tricky one to solve, but with the emergence of cryptocurrency tech, there seems to be new hope.

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.

Just to add the opposing viewpoint: after watching browsers get incredibly sluggish over the past year on up-to-date hardware (desktop and mobile), I absolutely care about speed and bandwidth consumption[1]. So Brave's 'manifesto' absolutely resonates.

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!

[1] And security and privacy, they're the basic minimum the world needs, right? Grandparent seems too quick to dismiss them.

>tragedy of the commons

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.

Yeah. It almost makes me hanker for the bad old days when we had to support IE6. The pendulum's swung too far in the other direction when my phone has trouble when it's less than 2 years old.

Is it the browsers that are getting slower, or the websites that you visit?

Both, I think. The rash of huge background videos is a prime culprit. Here's a bug I filed, for example: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1197460

The Firefox Media Playback team will be tackling issues around multiple videos and background videos in Q1. For example, pausing videos until the user has viewed the tab (bug 1187778). Infinite-scrolling of Facebook's timeline page with multiple videos is another problem.


I hope we can push the Graphics team to enable hardware acceleration on Linux eventually, too. :)

Try this webapps, you get both privacy and fast browsing. Just whitelist what you need https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tobykurien... The code is opensource in github.

With ads every visitor/reader contributes regardless of their agreement with the content, while micropayments are more like "likes", and you'd mostly pay those who you agree with. This could lead to karma-whoring but this time for real money.

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.

It looks like current ad-blockers are sufficient for most people. Privacy also does not seem to be a large problem for the vast majority of web users.

> 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.

I hope you don't really mean "replace" ads.

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.

That's a good point. When I get into hating on ads, it's easy to forget about people for whom "micropayments" would not be so "micro". So the system would need a free option. Maybe just with ads. But how could ads be worth anything if only poor people viewed them? Maybe something like a distributed library system. Non-poor freeloaders might be problematic, however. Maybe add a delay for free access. Or reduce bandwidth to slow loading.

I'd rather you skip the micropayments, if you can, and don't get distracted by zealots. Anti-advertising is anti-business IMO. What you're doing is extremely valuable. The free-for-all of tracking on the web is bad and it should be fixed directly. It doesn't need to be conflated with a niche cause.

This is my highest rated comment ever currently at +180. I don't know if anti-advertising is anti-business. It remains to be seen if the limited anti-ad experiments like in Brazil are really killing business. What seems certain is that anti-advertising is not a niche position, just not one that I explicitly see expressed online except in terms of privacy, security, and speed.

Hey Brendan,

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.

Please do.

your english isnt the greatest but the points are reasonably sound.

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...

There are open crawl sets available. English is poor because I am on mobile (which is why i am not going to provide the links) one is called, i think, open crawl index.

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

The micropayments sound good, but I don't understand how those can work in practice:

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?

Press stories cover how what we are building can scale without site owners having to opt in. It'll be in the roadmap too. I went light in the blog post to avoid to;dr.

For the record, I (and I think many others like me) are totally fine with old-school display ads. You can show me all the ads you can get advertisers to pay for, and I might even click on them if they're presented in a relevant context (an ad for a game on a review of a similar game).

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.

I would also love to see micropayments replace ads. I block nonessential scripts, ads and trackers for privacy, security and speed. I also block ads to avoid mental pollution.

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.

Since your point is privacy, do you know that Bitcoin is the opposite of private and anonymous? The entire ledger is recorded publicly. Granted if you obtain some via cash and are careful not to link your real identify with purchasing the coins, a btc purchase, attaining your goods, etc.; you can get away with using it to an extent, but good luck with modern ad profiling... one mis-step and your profiles are linked.

That's an excellent point. I should have specified "thoroughly anonymized Bitcoin". I used to buy Bitcoin with cash. Usually cash by mail. But now I earn as much as I need, anonymously. So there's no linkage to my real identity. Also, I use multiple project-specific personas. Each one has its own Whonix instances, and I transfer Bitcoin among them via various mixing services. Anyway, there's no possibility of profiles getting linked.

How will you provide better ads? Facebook knows everything about me and I unblock ads on their site for the laugh at how bad they are (Two examples: I don't want to go back to college to get my degree a second time at the place I already got it once, thank you very much. Also I don't want to supply my house with natural gas 200 miles from where I live). You will know very little about me, how will you come up with better ads? Remember better = more relevant to things I might want.

I think your question is premised on a false assumption:

> 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[1] 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.)

[1] http://zgp.org/targeted-advertising-considered-harmful/

One of my friends was looking to 'trade up' his car, and kept getting facebook ads for his own car. I guess it was exactly the kind of car a person like him would own...

I'll probably use your browser so that I can read the Sydney Morning Herald. That's one crappy, crappy website - and only because of the ridiculous level of tracking.

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.

Try white listing only the "content delivering server from smh". You will browse blazing fast! https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tobykurien...

https://github.com/tobykurien/WebApps PS: I am not the author, I like the idea, so I have a complete white list of sites in the webview.

I'll give that a try! Thanks.

Micropayments have been busted down many times, though I find Nick Szabo's arguments the most convincing:


Clay Shirky's got some good additions.

http://www.shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2000/12/19/micropayments.ht...

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).

Hunt: http://cabalamat.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/a-broadband-tax-fo...

Stallman: https://stallman.org/articles/internet-sharing-license.en.ht...

My own, with some background:



Why information goods and markets are a poor match https://www.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/2vm2da/why_inf...

Does your browser block JavaScript? Because your claims of protecting users from tracking are baseless without that.

> We have a micro payments channel to publishers, frictionless and anonymous, under construction, for folks who want no ads and who will pay.

This is an amazing option.

I would love if it was more viable to choose between ads and payment. I don't know how much my current Web habits would end up costing. But if it was a lot, I could stand to cut down on my Web surfing. There are after all other worthwhile things to do.

If this browser is planning to block obtrusive / non-performant ads, and replace them with others, presumably they will have to work out how to pay the website owners. They could use the same structure to set up a micropayments.

I get it. It's a nice idea. Also, thanks for JavaScript.

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