You will notice a strange little icon at the bottom of all my posts now:
This is a link to a new web system called Flattr. It’s a way of enabling micropayments to be made via the web.
One of the great strengths of the web is the great abundance of free material—and this site is part of that. However it’s also one of its great weaknesses, since it’s not free for web authors like myself to provide this information.
The usual way around this is for websites to take advertising, and there are some sites that do very well out of that—but not many. Some websites try subscriptions, but this undermines the first strength of the web—the information is no longer freely available.
Some newspapers like the New York Times are trying an innovative combination of the two—and I think their model is quite a good one (up to 20 stories a month for free, beyond that they’ll require you to be a subscriber). That could work for large genuinely commercial sites like theirs, but it’s an impossible method for everyone.
I’ve been hoping that one day someone would develop a genuine micropayment system for web content—so that rather than being asked to fork out $50 a year for this site, and $75 for that and so on, it would be possible to make tiny payments for information you really appreciated. But the technology to develop genuine micropayments seems too costly—thus far—to make this feasible.
Enter Flattr. I have no idea how it will work in the long term, but one of the donors to this site brought it to my attention a month or so ago:
I heard about you via the automaticearth (Stoneleigh & Ilargi), and recently gave you a donation for your excellent work.
Have you thought of offering flattr rather than paypal for donations? See www.flattr.com.
Flattr is a site designed to enable regular “micro-donations” to good causes such as your own…”
Now that I’ve finished writing Debunking Economics, I thought I’d implement it on my site to see how it goes.
The idea is that, firstly, you—the reader—have to sign up to Flattr, and agree to give a set amount per month (the minimum being 2 Euros) to Flattr-enabled sites. If then, you click on (say) 100 of these sites over a month, each of them will get 2 cents. If you click on only one, it gets 2 Euros.
Of course there are deductions from which the Flattr site makes money, and provisions for when you don’t click at all in a month (it goes to a set of charities) etc. From a quick perusal of the site yesterday, I like the way they’ve put this together and I think their operations and intentions are ethical.
I have no idea whether the idea will catch on, or whether it will raise much money for those who implement it. But I like its concept and I think it’s worth a try, so I’ve implemented it here (and I’ve signed up to give 5 Euros a month myself).
If you’d like to “Flattr” any of my posts, then firstly you have to go to their site and sign up:
Then whenever you see a site with this icon, if you appreciate what you read on it, you can click on the “My Thing” button you’ll see there to put some of your Flattr payments towards it.
At the moment, most Flattr-enabled sites are European—the developers are Swedish—but if it takes off, the number of English-language sites should grow.
You can check out more details on Flattr at their FAQ page.