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Letting users skip our paywall if they wrote an apology (kapwing.com)
205 points by justswim on Oct 31, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 180 comments

Unsolved, difficult problems of micropayments:

- pay before viewing: how do you know that the thing you're paying for is the thing that you're expecting? What if it's a rickroll or goatse?

- so do you give refunds a la steam?

- pay and adverts: double-dipping is very annoying

- pay and adverts: how do you know who you're paying? A page appears with a micropayment request, but how do you know you've not just paid the advertiser to view their ad?

- pay and frame: can you have multiple payees per displayed page? (this has good and bad ideas)

- pay and popups: it's going to be like those notification or app install modals, yet another annoyance for people to bounce off

- pay limits: contactless has a £30 limit here. Would you have the same payment system suitable for $.01 payments and $1000 payments? How easy is it to trick people into paying over the odds (see refunds)?

- pay and censors: who's excluded from the payment system? Why?

Essentially the problem with micropayments is microscams.

I think the only real problem there is the "how do you know who you're paying?" part. Everything else would be solved or effectively ignored with the following:

I send you 10$ somehow, you send me email with ten hashes. Each hash worth a dollar.

I pay to alex by cut and paste on a webpage (here's the catch, maybe It's a scam!)

Alex has registered as content producer to your service. Alex immediately sends the hash with his on handle crypted into one neat package, to your servers. As soon as it lands, you add the dollar to his account. The particular hash is now rendered useless for the rest of history.

You send "valid transaction" message to Alex. Alex then lets me to comment his excellent blog post.

What am I missing? If it was that easy, it would have been done.

> If it was that easy, it would have been done.

Part 2: business model problems!

- getting money into the system is plagued by usual fraud problems of card TX for pure digital goods

- nobody wants to build a federated system; everyone wants to build a Play/Apple/Steam store where they take 30%

- winner-take-all effects are strong

- Play store et al already exist, why not use that?

- Free substitute goods are just a click away

- Consumers will pirate anything no matter how cheap the original is

- No real consumer demand for micropayments

=> lemma from previous 3 items: market for online goods is efficient enough to drive all marginal prices to zero

- existing problem of the play store letting your kid spend all the money

- friction: it would be great if you didn't have to repeatedly approve things, such as a micropayment for every page of a webcomic archive. But blanket approval lets bad actors drain the jar or inattentive users waste it and then feel conned

- first most obvious model for making this work is porn, which is inevitably blacklisted by the payment processors, has a worse environment for fraud/chargebacks, and is toxic to VCs (see Patreon and even Craigslist)

- Internet has actually killed previously working micropayment systems such as Minitel, paid ringtones (anyone remember the dark era of Crazy Frog?); surviving ones like premium SMS and phone have a scammy, seedy feel.

- accounting requirements: do you have to pay VAT on that micropayment? do you have to declare it? Is it a federal offence to sell something to an Iranian or North Korean for one cent?

Previously on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=630862 Slashdot (2003): https://news.slashdot.org/story/03/07/22/138257/whatever-hap... HBR: https://hbr.org/2010/02/why-i-hate-micropayments.html

"Play store et al already exist, why not use that?"

Play store does not have the content I want. And it seems overly difficult to post the content I want to make. And if I want to pay for engagement with the content, that's not an option.

Patreon is lot closer to what suits my needs. But even that is too inflexible on how to use payments and to what you should pay. So far everybody seems to be making their micro-transaction payment models "flexible" by making the amount paid flexible. But that's exactly the one thing I want to be fixed. I'd like to host my entirely own webpage and patreon just to handle the money from exactly the kind of transaction I want.

"Pirate" is not the thing I would concentrate on. People want to see the stuff before they pay for it. But if I could somehow engage with Slavoj Zizek about the superb youtube video he made, I'd actually pay for it. Or if I could promote that video to people in my home city I'd pay for that also. If some of that money went to Zizek I'd be even more willing to pay, because that would support him to continue. People underestimate the need for other people to be social about the content they consume.

People on reddit are using the reddit gold as super upvote. But that only works in Reddit.

I never thought of Zizek as the vanguard of the micropayments revolution ...

I agree about the "funding more content" angle; I hope twitter eventually realises this, but they really have a bad idea about how their own platform works and seem to be allergic to taking money from users for features.

Off-topic, but the particular video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7JgfB8PaAk

- Can you blacklist specific providers?

Don't think of it as asking for 1 dollar. Think like this:

Say if you walk up to me irl and ask for a dollar, I'll be like, sure here's your change and open up my wallet.

Online, asking for one dollar is too much mental overhead. Its not like people don't want to pay, but you need to make it easy for them to pay you.

Personally, I would stick with ad revenue instead of 1 dollar payments.

Online micropayments is still a woefully untouched market, it was supposed to be the wave of the future some years ago, but never went anywhere.

I won't pay 10 dollars a month (each) to the NYT (LAT, WaPo, et al) for a subscription I might quite happily pay 5 to 20 cents for an article though. I can see a service that functions a lot like EZPass, you load your account with 5-10 bucks, you agree to pay by clicking a payment button on a landing page on a website, the rest is mostly automatic, require more than just a click thru for anything larger than say, 25 cents. You could even set it up so it doesn't prompt you to pay until you're more than half way thru too.

Yes, It'd take some doing to build infrastructure and get content providers online, but it would eliminate a lot of the mechanics of paying for news, information, online media and other like content (as well as many of the privacy and practical concerns of ad based content payment).

The big thing is to make it content agnostic, it can't be part of apple, google, facebook, whatever, it needs to be something that functions just as a payment/escrow service, not part of some other media empire - part of the utility of such a service is universality. I'd also steer clear of person to person payments, large transactions, pretty much just be a one-trick-pony (at least until you have wide penetration), and only go after small payments - all of those other markets are well served by a multitude of providers, and would serve as a distraction from the primary product.

> I won't pay 10 dollars a month (each) to the NYT (LAT, WaPo, et al) for a subscription

What about a Spotify model for articles where you pay a monthly subscription to access all articles from the NYT, WaPo, LAT, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Economist, Nature, National Geographic, Scientific American, London Review of Books ... ?

EDIT: I guess this is what Blendle is, as mentioned in a sibling comment, except Blendle seems to be pay-per-view and I'm suggesting monthly subscription. Presumably Blendle could also offer monthly subscription.

Note that it does seem to work reasonably well for the "adult" industry. People are often reluctant to pay for recurring fees on those sites (social stigma plays a role there, probably). But "pay-as-you-go" or pay per view schemes seem to fare far better. And, it makes sense; why pay for a monthly thing when the moment of enjoyment is relatively short. A DRM free download for that thing you like is mentally easier to justify. The big hurdle is still sign-up and credit cards I think, I'd personally be much more inclined to use systems with more privacy conscious approaches: since micropayments give an opportunity to track /exactly/ what you're looking at. This might even be more relevant for news outlets that cover a wide range of topics and writing styles.

Saw https://blendle.com/ posted on HN a while back. Works exactly like that.

Blende is great! I have zero problems paying for good reading material but I don’t want to pay 5 $10 subscriptions. Blendle just lets me pay per article.

They are based in the Netherlands, my home country and they have deals with all major newspapers here, so I am not missing out on anything.

I highly recommend you give this a shot.

Note: I am not associated with Blendle in any way. Just a happy user spreading the word.

Not sure if you are Dutch, but if you follow dutch news then you'd known the soap bubble 'blendle' has burst already... Afaics they are at the brink of bankruptcy, and needed multiple financial injections to 'survive' and papers like NRC, FTM and recently the telegraaf have already pulled their publications.

Today the people behind blendle launched a new product, Medianieuwsbrief.nl To me another pointer that blendle is no longer viable and they are looking for new products.

They are what others describe causing brand erosion, as they collect articles from lots of sources, readers will forget/not know who actually wrote the article, which newspaper the good articles come from etc.

I am Dutch. Born and raised. I moved out two years ago though so I am not completely up-to-date with all the recent development.

Jeez. I didn't know the situation became that bad. I didn't notice because I mostly read American news. From what I quickly read on for example NRC [0], they pulled their content because Blendle introduced the concept of a subscription and that would cut profits for NRC.

The new concept Medianieuwsbrief.nl looks like a last resort kinda thing. I doubt it would take off.

[0] https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2017/03/07/waarom-nrc-stopt-met-bl...

Alexander said to be inspired by https://www.mediagazer.com For their new site.

That new site hurts my eyes :)

Does it work as I suspect: you pay, and yet you still get ads too?

No ads in my experience. You should check out the beta and see what you think, I still think it's running. You receive a few dollars in credit to try out the platform. Personally, I really love it.

Nope, I never saw a single ad. You open up the app, pick and article that looks interesting to you and you can start reading. When you click, you pay a small amount, the price for an article is always clearly displayed.


Oh c'mon. I cannot endorse a cool product? They're from my home country, I like their product and I'd like to see people use these kind of services where authors actually get paid instead of through ads.

Hijacks my back button..big no no

Can someone explain to me why hijacking of the back button is even possible? It's obviously something that browsers could fix, and the fact they don't fix it means that there must be some legitimate uses. But what legit use?

In this case I think it doesn't hijack your back button. The first page redirects to a second page, and they both end up in your history. If they used history.replaceState() then you'd only have one entry in your back-stack. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/History_API

In a perfect world, it would be used by single page apps that are driven by JavaScript to provide the same benefits of linking, history navigation, and so on, without having to actually load a new page.

Think an online webmail client, where each time you view an email it adds a new item to your history.

JavaScript apps. If you dynamically load content using js, the user will likely expect the back button to undo that change.

What exactly does it make the back button do that you don't like? It seems to work fine for me.

> it was supposed to be the wave of the future some years ago, but never went anywhere.

I remember when Peter Sunde's Flattr was around (circa 2010) and websites had flattr buttons (like those html/css buttons).

Edit: I just checked and apparently it still exists: https://flattr.com/

Yes it exists, but has been bought by Eyeo. That's the company behind AdBlock Plus, whos' business practices are one of the reasons why so many people have switched to uBlock Origin.

Edit: And it has already started: Eyeo has made major changes to how Flattr works (now they decide who gets your money, and how much of it, not you) and hiked the prices.

I think it is untouched market, since there were many attempts and it didn't work. I call it a "micropayments dream"... publishers dream about it, but it is not going to happen. I personally would not pay 5 cent per article, since I don't want the burden in the back of my mind to evaluate, if that particular article was "worth" 5 cents. Also, if there is a commentary which goes against my opinions, I might want to read it, but not pay for it.

I would totally pay 5 cents just to see if an article is good. I think the price point will vary wildly from person to person. For me, 50 cents is probably where I start getting price sensitive. I would pay 50 cents for a long form article from a publisher known for high quality, and 5 cents for your average news article.

I won't pay 5 cents for something I may not like, but at 1 cent, I may.

One big disincentive (at least for web articles) is that I tend to not know the actual value of the article until after I've read it. I don't want to pay 50 cents for an article, only to read it and realize they just copy-pasted a press release from Intel and did no actual reporting

We really need web standards for a "web wallet" and for micropayments. Something managed locally by your browser, preferably in some sort of separate sandbox. And then you'd be able set a per-site budget.

However, it feels like is something the big boys don't want to handle as a standards because there's too much money at stake if they get a piece of the pay themselves, i.e. Apple Pay & co.

The Web Payments API was actually created just a few months ago (or at least gained public notoriety).


It's already in Chrome and Edge, coming to Safari:


Have you read much about the Brave browser and the token system it's trying to implement? It's very similar to your proposed solution.

I don't really have any interest in bitcoin and various cryptocurrencies, but that sounds perfect for this sort of thing, no?

Online, asking for $1 is asking for someone's credit card info.

Right, and Mirimir has no credit cards :(

I used to argue for Bitcoin, but at $6K that's crazy.

However, a EZPass-like token funded with cards, cryptocurrencies, money in the mail, etc. That would be cool.

Being pedantic; the fluctuation is what’s crazy, if they started at $6k it’d be no problem because you’d just think in terms of thousandths of BTC (or even satoshis) instead of whole coins.

The problem is the transaction fees needed for timely confirmation.

> I used to argue for Bitcoin, but at $6K that's crazy.

Well, Bitcoin may not be good for micropayments, but that's not the reason; you don't have to have integer numbers of bitcoin, you can have 0.00016666 bitcoins (~$1 at $6k/BTC).

Lightning Network, coming soon to a blockchain near you.

Real Soon Now™. It's pretty much vaporware at this point.

What about Raiden (for Ethereum) though, it is already on the test network.

Yes. But it's the transaction fees. Sorry to not make that clear.

What's the transaction fee on a Bitcoin transaction these days? Minimum $1.50? With a 15- or 30-minute delay on confirmations?

Not for micro- nor instant-transactions.

Yes, that was my issue. I normally set ~0.5 mBTC, but that's $3 now. That gives you an hour or less. At ~0.2 mBTC, it can take hours to confirm. However, for small payments, some accept with no confirmations, and just eat any loss.

This seems relevant: "Ripple, XRP and Micropayments", https://xrphodor.wordpress.com/2017/09/17/ripple-xrp-and-mic...

I like you. I have had an IRL theory/behavior pattern like that for some time. If you need something modest like a dollar so much that you find a return on your time to ask random people for a dollar (or $2.75 for a ride on the subway) then you need the dollar way more than i will miss it, so if I have one I often give it out. There but for the grace of god go I.

Anyone can afford a dollar. I'm guessing the real reason these people don't pay is because they don't think it's worth paying $1 to generate a meme.

IMO I think it makes more sense to put advertising on the main site and fund it that way. If I was a user of this service I'd prefer to have some ads on the site rather than paying $1 for it. I don't feel it makes sense to remove the branded gifs...that's how you will grow your business, and it's not worth removing it because someone is just too cheap to pay.

Anyway, it's your business and not mine, so do what you feel is best.

>> don't think it's worth paying $1

Key word there is paying. A buck is fine with me, but I don't have a good way to offer it. I'm not giving you my credit card number, email or phone number; I'm not going to spend even 10 seconds filling out a form just for your site; I don't use PayPal; I don't currently authorize you to ever take any more than the buck I want to give you right now; I want a refund if the functionality doesn't work as described.

Has anyone made any real progress in solving this problem?

This is exactly the problem, and it's a difficult one to solve. I've seen research suggesting that the cognitive cost of filling out payment forms and giving out credit card information makes it easier to pay $10 than $1, since it doesn't feel "worth" all that effort to pay only one dollar. Unfortunately this is part of what reinforces the market dominance of mega-retailers like Amazon, because if you already have an account with them, the cognitive cost of signing up has already been paid.

> cognitive cost of filling out payment forms, etc.

That's exactly the case for me. I spend physical cash with much less hesitation than for online purchases. I'd probably spend way more freely online if I didn't have to keep track of the purchase just in case something goes wrong, like getting mis-charged, double-billed, a continuing subscription I wasn't expecting, or just to remember why that $1 debit appears on my statement.

As an aside:

It's curious to see that this made it to the HN front page and already has more than 25 comments, yet nobody has commented on the original article's own page which does allow commenting. Well, there is one comment that says, "Great analysis", but that was me just to check if commenting actually works. I suppose that ties in with the same idea -- it's not worth the "cognitive cost" to make a comment no one will read.

> it's not worth the "cognitive cost" to make a comment

Their comment form requires login or signup. I'm already signed up and logged in here. That's reason enough for me to post here and not there. I would never create an account just to leave a comment unless it was someplace where I intended to visit and comment often.

Not only that, but by now I've figured out that the comment sections of most sites are toxic with little, if any, moderation. HN has a good moderation set-up, respectful members, etc. I try to avoid even reading the comments of other websites since they just end up being depressing.

BBC is especially depressing.

You should try Fox News.

So if true federated non-statist, non-corp entity login actually worked we would probably comment freely and purchase stuff in 0.10-0.50 increments? Mozilla should be a payments platform.

The browser vendors are the only actors who might be able to make this work.

Seeing how Google makes basically all its money from internet ads, I don't think they have any interest to enable other monetization schemes. (Unless, of course, something makes them believe that ads are going to become unattractive and they need to pivot.)

I like the idea of no registration by having the browser locally generate a public/private key pair for use on the site.

The mobile stores come closer to that less hesitation scenario I think. Your card info is already there, you only need to input your pass to spend the money.

Though PayPal doesn't feel like that, I guess being in the browser is off-putting in terms of spending because of added risk.

Apple Pay and Android Pay are one touch, authenticated by thumb print and IIRC uses a temporary credit card number.

That's not going to work given that it is still CC on the back end -- per-tx fees will eat you alive at the $1/tx level.

I'd guess it'd eat $0.50 of a $1.00 transaction, maybe a bit less if you're lucky. That's bad, but it's workable if you have low operating costs - it certainly isn't a loss. Most people seem to think $5.00 is when credit transactions start making more sense.

Amusingly, Amazon charges me $0.14 every single month for my usage of Amazon S3. I wonder if they've got some sort of sick deal where they don't pay per-tx.

>Amusingly, Amazon charges me $0.14 every single month for my usage of Amazon S3. I wonder if they've got some sort of sick deal where they don't pay per-tx.

Off-topic but I had this (except I have a non-US card, so the foreign transaction fee was larger than the S3 bill). I contacted Amazon and asked if I could prepay $50 and they added a small balance to my account for free that'll cover my tiny S3 usage for the next few years

Aren't foreign exchange fees calculated by %?

My bank charges a flat fee of £0.75 per transaction for foreign currency transactions - not a big deal for a normal transaction but pretty significant if you're paying a $0.03 bill every month!

Some credit card companies charge $3 or $5 for transactions made in other currencies, with exchange rate being separate.

Are those fees > $1? Depending on the rest of your model - huge volume of transactions for a free-to-reproduce product? - even a massive cut might still be workable.

I disagree, I think the keyword is $1, because at least for me as strictly a user (not a stakeholder or business owner) generating a meme is simply not worth that cost no matter how easy it is to pay it.

> Has anyone made any real progress in solving this problem?

Wouldn't be too hard to implement in an iOS app with a IAP for credits. All the other places I can think where this has been done and it is relatively streamlined are other walled gardens like Steam.

Don't know about refunds, but for the rest Apple Pay (available via web) is literally click button, scan finger (on your nearby iPhone if you're on desktop and not using a tbMBP), done. I guess you can use credit card chargebacks, but beyond that refunds are hard to solve without making abuse possible.

I use privacy.com to generate merchant or burner cards. Funds come out your bank a/c, and Chrome integration makes it seconds to generate a card and fill out the details in the web page. And the card is locked to the merchant if it's not a burner.

Would this work for you?

In Portugal ATM systems are like tiny Internet, so some websites generate a one time ID number that you can use for an ATM transfer.

Basically you get the ID, then either make use of online banking or go to the next ATM machine around the corner and make the transfer.

So we've gone from filling out a form to either switching to a new tab and logging in to online banking to make the transfer, or even worse, leaving the building to go to an ATM?

Depends how much paranoid one is about securiy.

Online banking and mobile phone app are still an option as well.

Also we don't charge for ATM operations, so they are available on almost every street, at least on major cities.

Pretty sure Stripe does this - webmaster has to enable refunds on the Stripe side though.


um... bitcoin? heard like 3 years ago that bitcoin will handle all sorts of micro-transactions...

anyone know what happened?

I haven't used BTC in a long time but last I read transactions take a very long time to process because the blocksize is too small to contain all the transactions that took place. I read (not sure if this is correct) that transaction fees needed to be upwards of $20 to ensure the transaction was included in the next block.

Bitcoin transactions have something like a $5 average transaction fee. You can offer less but your transaction won't get processed as quickly. Bitcoin is already slow at processing transactions.

Disclaimer: I don't use bitcoin. The $5 number is outdated, but from the graphs I could find in a quick search it seemed to be rising consistently.

I never spend more than $0.10 on transaction fees for bitcoin. I mean, you could give $5 if you wanted to, but why would you? If I was sending a dollar I wouldn't pay more than $0.01 or less for the transaction fee. And for something so cheap the merchant shouldn't bother waiting on confirmations. Exploiting 0 confirmations isn't easy, and it's not worth the work to anyone for a dollar. Even with sub cent transaction fees they'll still settle faster than 3-5 business days.

Stop spreading FUD. I spent 10c sending a transaction for $20 a month ago.

Smallest transaction I've seen is 191 bytes; [1] says right now to get a transaction in the next block the minimum fee is 240 satoshis/byte; and that today the 251-260 satoshis/byte has been the most common fee.

That's $2.82 according to [2].

And that's with current levels of demand - if there was a transaction every time someone visited a website, demand would be much, much higher.

[1] https://bitcoinfees.earn.com/ [2] https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=(191*240%2F100000000)+BTC+...

Yes, you're right. I miscalculated the fee. I actually paid $1 and was not trying to get it in the next block.

That's why you would use an off-chain solution like lightning payment channels with sub-cent transaction fees. Transactions are faster than credit cards too.

> Has anyone made any real progress in solving this problem?

Bitcoin micro-transactions via lightning:


> real progress

Let's not pretend that consumer-facing cryptocurrency-backed anything is little more than something for speculators, libertarians, and nerds.

Don't bother, the HN crowd will downvote this hard, bitter truth. I had this conversation N times, my argument is roughly this: "There's no legit use of bitcoin. Main usages are a) pyramid-like hold-and-hype b) illegal money transfers out of China. No, ordinary people don't want to use it for international transfer because you need to go through hops to get Bitcoin on the sender end, even worse the receiver needs to do something to get money and at the end of the day you have no idea how much money the receiver actually gets. And let's not even discuss outsourcing the security from banks to customers."

The community here is much more reasonable than, say, reddit. Notice the comment hasn't been killed as you expected it would. People here understand pretty well the barrier between cryptocurrency and "regular people."

Want me to collect the links of my downvoted comments which said this exact same thing?

> Has anyone made any real progress in solving this problem?

The reason they haven't is that the law puts the burden of fraud on the payment processors. The dispute resolution overhead is the same for a $.10 transaction as a $100 transaction, but if that average cost is $.30 then you can't have $.10 transactions and the fee on $1 transactions is onerous.

Using some cheaper less effective dispute resolution for micro-transactions doesn't work because if it's possible to consistently scam it but only for a dime then people will just scam it for a dime in a for loop.

This is why the off-chain Bitcoin processors have lower transaction fees -- they don't have this problem. But then the problem is that the customer has to get some Bitcoin and if they have to buy it with a credit card we're back to square one.

BTC processors don't have that problem because they do absolutely no fraud detection. That's a pretty big no-go for most consumers.

If it was actually the consumers who were averse to the risk then we could get rid of the law and nothing would change.

The problem is the law is inefficient because the consumer is the lowest cost avoider. They can do things like using a good pass phrase and not reusing passwords and not holding large sums of money in uninsured accounts for unnecessarily long periods of time.

Payment processors can't stop customers with no skin in the game from making poor decisions, so they have to sum up the cost of the resulting fraud and make everyone pay it as transaction fees, and then we can't have micro-payments.

I feel like this is great for middle class adults, but it alienates a huge section of the population. Anyone can afford a dollar, but that's not the same thing as affording a dollar every time you visit a site. A minimum wage worker can afford a dollar, but can't afford to browse more than 8 pages an hour, and that's before you factor in the cost of living and America's high monthly costs just to access the internet.

> Anyone can afford a dollar.

I can't.

Source: broke and unemployed.

Anyone heavily invested in making memes on the internet that they can't stand having a watermark should be able to afford a dollar.

If not, maybe a deep intersection into what one does during the day would be warranted.

It's the friction. Facebook gets people to pay for stupid games, over and over again, largely because once you pay the first the time, the friction is gone.

The WebPayments API might solve this: https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/payments/

> Anyone can afford a dollar

At the moment I'm unemployed and I'm literally living day to day just waiting for some kind of break.

It's easy to say "anyone can afford a dollar" while you sit in your $4,000 apartment sipping a late` that was just brought to you in less than five minutes by any of fifty different food delivery services available to you.

But consider that there are plenty of people who have a basic computer or smartphone and internet access who actually can't afford a dollar.

> But consider that there are plenty of people who have a basic computer or smartphone and internet access who actually can't afford a dollar.

Sure. But none of them need a meme generated that is logo-free.

If you said you don't have a credit card or other means to pay, I would get that.

The point wasn’t that no one is broke, it’s that even if the price was $0.01 or even $0.0000001 perhaps it would still be priced too high for the actual value.

Your situation certainly sucks, but I still have bills to pay. I still have to pay for hosting and content creation and all that.

If you can't afford to pay the price I ask, well, then you shouldn't get it. Like anything else in the world.

If you can't, or choose not to, afford $1 to generate a gif meme without a watermark then so be it. But the $0-$1 meme market also cannot afford the cost of righteous indignation.

That's a pretty rude comment. I'm sure cpncrunch understands that, literally, not everyone on the planet can afford to pay a dollar. Please adjust your tone.


> Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say face-to-face. Don't be snarky. Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.


> Fuck off with your tone policing [0] of the downtrodden. Oppression makes people angry, if you don't want people to be angry like that then stop oppressing them.

Take a breath and relax. No one is oppressing you. I simply ask that you adhere to this community's guidelines and use a civil tone.

It's not about anyone oppressing anyone here. My reference to oppression was as a society and in general, not to this comment chain. It's about you claiming that being angry about oppression - specifically the dismissal of that oppression as valid - is for some reason disqualifying of the arguments contained with in. It's a fallacy, it's called tone policing, and you are doing it.

It's definitely not clear to me that they understand that. shrug

I think it's more about the friction of engaging a payment method. For me at least, there is a bigger gap between free and $0-but-fish-out-a-credit-card than there is between $1 and $10.

True, I wouldn't pay either $1 or $10 to generate a meme, but I wouldn't 'pay' $0 either.

Here is my honest brutal “apology”: I wouldn’t pay more than a couple of cents to use your service. If you want to monetize it find a way to allow nano-payments. You are not adding as much value as you think.

One dollar is something you could afford. And if you can't/don't think it's of enough value then the watermark version is good too for sure.

And if you are a content creator that needs lots of them then the 10$\month will be fine. Let users pay with their wallet. Not everyone would know how to do this in some graphics software so there is a value.

It doesn't matter if I can afford it... I can afford to spend $500 too. Doesn't mean I'm going to spend it on just anything.

Making a meme on a website is barely worth the time I spend doing it. The $10 seems reasonable if I make a ton of memes and it's a good website though. The $1 is just ridiculous and they should just take that option out purely because it changes the dynamics as to how you view the website. Charging $1 for a meme is so ridiculous that I think people will look at the $1 and run, while viewing it as a monthly $10 service will be more palatable.

It's $1 for removing the watermark from the video. The free version still has the watermark.

If you’re a content creator you’ll have a stand alone program that’ll do more than add text to a video.

I disagree. If I spend 15 minutes using this service, and if I believe the service offers something others don't (I don't know if this is the case---I haven't tried it), then I've just achieved something I couldn't do otherwise in that 15 minutes. If it saved me even 5 minutes of my time compared to another service/software, I'd value that at $1-5 depending if I was at work or using it during my free time that I could have spent on something else fun.

Now, getting me to pull out a card or log into PayPal is an uncomfortable, high-mental capacity activity, which I might not want to do during my free time. That's the real problem behind internet micropayments.

Yeah, there's so many free video editor programs available that can do this just as well.

They might not be cut to do exactly that, so there's a bit of a learning curve in comparison to this service, but still, especially for something as optional as making memes, I'd rather waste half an hour learning how to do it in a video editor than pay $1 for each video.

This might get downvoted, but let me play devils advocate... the $1 is too cheap. You don’t value my time if you’re making me whip out my credit card and go through the painful process of checking out for transacting only a dollar from me. You’re also extremely downplaying the value of your product. if it was only worth a dollar, you would likely not be building a startup around it :)

Most people don’t know how much something is worth. Try not to lower price, rather, increase value.

Under the sad faces, I’d change the messaging. Its generally understood (even by the layperson) that the true cost of technology is very low. What this really costs, and this is true, is the time-value of your development team (and associated market salary). “It takes real people to build and maintain this” might be more effective messaging.

All that said, this does seem like an interesting way to gather user feedback. Good luck!

I'm inclined to agree with this. Like you say, increase the price and offer more value: there's a $10 subscription, but how about a $10 one-off, which allows me to create as many videos as I like for the next two weeks, or next month? I'm sure there are probably other - perhaps more interesting/creative - ways you could offer more value if you spent some time thinking about it.

Also, offering payment options that don't require me to fill in a form with my credit card details for yet another frigging website. I hate to recommend them in some ways - because they've caused me aggro so many times with transactions larger than a few hundred quid - but PayPal might be a good option here.

>$1 is too cheap The product is a meme maker, and that $1 gets a watermark removed on said meme. That isn't even remotely worth $1 for a single instance. There's plenty of free software that can do the same thing, albeit less streamlined.

Definitely a clever way to solicit feedback, though.

A clever way to get feedback actually, by incentivizing them for it! I'm actually having this issue right now, we have easy to access feedback forms, but users just don't bother to complain or comment.

Here's a copy that can be read without JS enabled:


For those using something like uMatrix, it seems the site's JavaScript crashes if you don't load Stripe's JavaScript too. Enabling that makes the site render.

I found it really difficult to take this article seriously.

>Kapwing is an online video and GIF meme generator

It adds bars of text to the top and/or bottom of a gif. This product is worth $0. Probably less.

"Around 8% of users who could have used the apology flow converted into paying customers"

One man's trash...

I'd like proof or actual numbers before just believing this. What if 8% of users is a few people?

It would take me ~5 hours to manually add text to a video or gif. I'd need to download (or buy) software, install it, learn to use it, export/convert/etc. This site has significant value.

It would take you less than 20 minutes to find and learn the requisite (free) software the first time, then less than 2 minutes each subsequent time. If you grok ffmpeg then you can probably get it down to a dead simple script and 0 time.

I don't program and know nothing about video or video software or 'scripts'. My internet is ungodly slow and pc is incredibly old/weak. I don't know what grok or ffmpeg is.

The above is not me, but many other users.

You don't need to know any of that. You just need to open Windows Movie Maker (is that still pre-installed?) and spend 10 minutes familiarizing yourself with its simple UI and 30 seconds making the video.

Eh well my point is still it takes 30 seconds with their tool and some multiple of 30 seconds to do it myself. There is some value and making things quickly.

Your point weakened more and more as you had to lean back on your exaggerated or extremely rare circumstance to the point where now this comment isn't even a strong stance for the site.

I understand your point and I think it's pedantic and silly. For all practical purposes this tool is worthless. Guilting people into paying for it is laugahable.

This URL only loads a blank white page for me. It's probably because I keep JS disabled, but I really wish sites would degrade more sensibly.

If you absolutely require JS for the content, I understand, but please display some minimal page that explains things. Even if it was just ugly plain text, I'd be much more willing to enable JS for you :)

Shouldn't you focus on those guys who will have a commercial benefit out of such a service? If they have a benefit, they will pay - because they earn somehow money out of it.

Asking private persons will lead into goodwill purchases - which I'm not thinking that this is scaleable...

I can see this working well for content curation of articles for businesses. Reading individually might be free, but then if you want a daily dose of industry related news hand picked and cross linked, then you pay a subscription.

Treat information as the public good it is.

Pay those who create it.

Allow free access to public information.

The entire advertising market worldwide is $600 billion, which works out to roughly $600 per man, woman, and child among the 1 billion inhabitants of the US, EU, Japan, CA, AU, and NZ. (Or OECD states, if you prefer, or G-7.) Total media spend (print) is on the order of $200/year. Cable + broadband on the order of $1500 - $3000 per year (content and connectivity).

Seems to me there's some streamlining potential possible.


You should force non-paying customers to refer a friend or to share the page with a SEO optimized title on their facebook/twitter profile. But you shouldn't remove the skip payment option until you have a big user base.

Adding a sharing feature to get past the payment is an interesting thought. Instead of subjecting your users to ads you make them advertise to others on your behalf. Its definitely a good move for them if they are a young company.

They skipped paying because they didn't want a small text link that advertises for the service they just used for free? I don't buy any of their excuses. It's not like they couldn't use the service at ALL.

From an economic point of view, wasting people's time in exchange for a free service is worse than either charging them what the market can bear, or providing a free service. If you charged them, you would benefit. If you didn't charge, the users would benefit. But if you make a demand on their time which doesn't have any benefit for you, both of you are worse off.

This, to me, seems like a strange way of thinking. They're not 'wasting people's time,' they're making a request of them in exchange for a service.

Instead of turning them away entirely as a full paywall may have, they got some information or at least amusement out of them, and the user still gets their service.

Users benefit either way; the question is whether they have to pay in exchange for it or answer a question in exchange for it. The latter may seem wasteful to you, but clearly it didn't to the owners of that website.

They get quite a bit of product feedback, which is beneficial.

Imagine the same implemented in mainstream news media, links to which is always on top here on HN. "I'm too poor to pay non-cancellable monthly subscription to The CNN Times and extremely want to read this exciting article '10 Reasons Why Zuckertrump Is A Horseman Of Apocalypse'".

> Around 8% of users who could have used the apology flow converted into paying customers.

Given enough time, game theory is bound to kick in and gaming the system becomes a norm reducing the conversion rate. That is what you get with rational decision makers combined with enough automation.

I like this idea of avoiding a paywall with a reason.

I read many articles from The Guardian, who use a banner ad to promote their premium subscriptions. Due to my unstable life, I can't commit to regular payments from one bank account in one country for more than a couple of months at the longest.

The Guardian and many other news sites have entire sections dedicated to Bitcoin. But they don't accept it as a payment method.

I emailed their customer feedback, and was pleasantly surprised at the encouraging reply. Their management will be discussing whether to accept Bitcoin as a payment method.

If the news websites start accepting Bitcoin, they'll be more likely to post less sensational articles about it, and the value proposition to the end user becomes more clear (remove ads). The fact that Bitcoin payments aren't traceable encourages factual articles instead of promoting articles that indulge the political opinions of the people funding the news agency.

I've had this idea, and this is a good time as any to put it in the wild, since I don't have time to build it:

My problem with paywalls/sponsoring/micropayments is that I'm completely fine to pay an entity, say $5 a month. What I am not OK with is supporting all the people I'd like to support, which at $5 a month might total a hundred bucks or more.

I have the budget for it, but $5 increments can really get expensive after a while. And if you don't want to support an entity anymore, you'd have to remove their subscription on Paypal or Patreon or on their website or on whatever platform they've decided to use.

My "disruptive" idea is composed of two pieces:

1) A budget. I have $50/month I want to give away. No more than that because X reasons. I want this money to be equally divided. Tomorrow I have a better job, so I can budget $200/month, and everybody wins.

2) A browser extension. I click it when I'm visiting a website part of the network and lo, I've subscribed to the entity and at the end of the month part of my budget goes to them. Whenever I visit their site/content the extension reminds me I'm a subscriber, so I get the warm fuzzy feeling I'm supporting them. When I want to unsubscribe I toggle my subscription with a click.

EDIT: also, the entity DOES NOT know if a visitor on their website is a subscriber or not. I want to keep the Internet free for everybody, and not split it between paying users and leechers.

That's it.

Seems to me it's _relatively_ easy to build, and it's miles ahead of all the current micropayment platforms, that are clunky as hell.

Flattr Plus seems to have gone towards the same direction, with a big difference: whenever you visit an entity registered with Flattr Plus they'll automatically send some of your money to them to support them. I DO NOT WANT that. I might visit a site, decide it's awful, and don't want to support them. I need to be able to choose.

I'd really like to discuss more on this idea, it might be totally bunk but I still think this is potentially disruptive.

My email is in my profile.

You might want to check out Brave [1] which does pretty much exactly what you described:

> Set up automatic micro-donations. Brave will automatically divide a monthly donation among the top sites you visit.

See also their blogpost about it [2] and the FAQ [3].

[1]: https://brave.com/ [2]: https://www.brave.com/introducing-brave-payments/ [3]: https://www.brave.com/faq-payments/

If the options were "click here to pay $1" and "click here to pay $0" then I'd happily pay for tons of services and paywalls.

If the option is "Click here to pay $0" vs. "Click here to either sign up or do a 5 step one time checkout" then it's not clear, at least not for a service/product I'm unsure about.

(Disclaimer: I don't have PayPal or similar - I'm not sure if there exists a single click payment system that I'd be willing to use)

I'm sorry I'm not apologizing for being poor.

Then keep the watermark. But don't feel that just because you're poor that their costs are any different.

I didn't ask them to have costs or a website.

What? What about any store or company? You didn't ask anyone to have costs. They do. And you need or want to pay for some stuff at some point. What's your point? Seems quite entitled.

And? Your point being? Should the grocery store also give you free food because you didn't ask them to have a store?

Again, you being poor sucks. That does not change things for them, however. They still need to make money, and if you don't have the money, then you can go without. You will still live.

> Should the grocery store also give you free food because you didn't ask them to have a store?

Yes, that's why I have food stamps.

I don’t think that you understand how food stamps work.

As usual, greed slows down progress.


It's a startup posting on Hacker News about how they're trying to build a business, which is right in the bullseye of the Hacker News schtick as far as I can tell.

Since when has it been greedy to try and make a living, even doing something random and frivolous? The world needs random and frivolous things.

Regardless, I thought it was an interesting experiment.

Wrong article. I was posting in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15591020 but misplaced the comment.

Haha - classic. I've done that before too.

But why should the creator care about progress in this particular area of the web if he's not getting paid?

Did you get the permission of the users whose responses you posted?

Legally they're fine because the responses were anonymous and none of the users would reasonably believe that their responses would remain completly private.

Ethically (at least in my opinion) is the same, as long as they're kept anonymous and there's nothing personal or private in the responses they can use them for any reason. Especially because they were given in lieu of payment.

Are you saying that expecting any privacy is unreasonable these days?

1. I never said that, please stop putting words in my mouth.

2. In my opinion, posting completely anonymized responses is not a violation of privacy

That means you are publicly shaming your "pirating" visitors? That's morally unacceptable!

Except, I see no mention that anything is made public.

Some of the "apologies" were published in this very article.

Who cares... site does not load with javascript disabled.

I agree. I'll JS whitelist the domain itself in good faith but when it's more than 4 CDN and framework domains deep, all loading each other in serially, I'm just going to close the tab.

It's even worse when all they're trying to do is show simple text.

Yeah. I run uBlock Origin in "medium mode", defaulting to blocking third-party resources, but I'm pretty used to enabling them to get sites working. Enabling the most likely domains on this site just didn't do anything, so I'm just not going to bother doing anything more.

Yeah, cool, so like most of the modern Internet then?

Accepting JavaScript's prevalence—even given its many many many many many flaws—is something us pragmatists that actually decide to use the Internet to do things decided to do long long ago.

The page is text and static images and it's kind of absurd for it not to render without JS enabled even in 2017.

Uh huh tell me more about these "things" that you "do".

If there's a web app that I want to use, I whitelist it for js.

For general browsing, I keep it off. Ironically, this works fine for the same reason that paywalls will never succeed - there is so much content out there that any individual piece of it has essentially no value.

> there is so much content out there that any individual piece of it has essentially no value

Zero multiplied by anything is zero, so if all individual pieces of content are worthless, so is content as a whole.

But of course that's not true because content isn't fungible. There's an infinity of content, but, unless you think a cat meme listicle is equivalent to War and Peace, it doesn't matter. The best content will always be worth paying for to people who care about what they put into their brain.

I'm talking about browsing HN - nothing getting posted here is equivalent to War and Peace. If a particular link doesn't work because of javascript, I can just go on to the next one.

It's fine for any website to choose who it wants to serve. I don't imagine most JavaScript-dependent services are sad about losing a fraction of a percent of their potential users. It's not for them in the first place.


It's funny to me that someone wants to charge people for their online service, but can't even make a simple web-page fail gracefully. That's a pretty strong signal to me of the quality of their online service

> site does not load with javascript disabled

Who cares?

Anyone on mobile?

Anyone who doesn't want a cryptocurrency miner in his browser?

Anyone security conscious?

It's using react.js, maybe try unfiltering the site before heading to the comment section to tell everyone how much you don't care.

This seems like an interesting way to do research on the best ways to convert these users who don't want to pay outright. Maybe selectively show ads to the free users?

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