🔒 Monetising the Web without Adverts

As a bit of a follow on from my ramble about rewards for Open Source contributors I’m having a look at some other options.

One of those came about after Terence Eden retweeted the following:

I know Terence has worked with the W3C on web standards so was curious as to what this might be about. A bit of digging turned up that the plugin in question was part of a trial of a proposed new standard to allow for web content to be monetised without the need for adverts. Details of the proposed standard can be found on the Web Monetization Org website.

The number of sites looking to make use of the new standard is growing e.g. a recent addition was a advert free version of imgur.

How it Works

High Level

The basic starting point is to add a meta tag to the head section of your content.

<meta name="monetization" content="$coil.xrptipbot.com/KZutpQmJRyqRZAK5KGKfug">

The content section holds what’s known as a payment pointer, it’s holds a hostname that represents the entity that holds your wallet and a unique id for that wallet. The tag can be included in as many sites as you want.

A browser plugin (There are versions available for Chrome & Firefox and it’s built into the Puma browser for Android and iOS) reads this when the page is loaded and triggers a payment from the reader’s wallet to the content creators wallet.

The transactions are intended to not allow anybody to track what content readers are consuming.

Low level

At the backend the system uses the Interledger protocol to make payments between the Reader and the the Website. A full description can be found here.

Flow diagram for Webmonetization.

Coil

The first implementation of the proposed standard is by company called Coil who host users wallets. They have also created a WordPress plugin that handles inserting the meta tag and few other things.

I have been beta testing the plugin for the last few months and it is simple to install and configure.

Coil act as the readers wallet, their business model is that you create a single account with them and pay a small fee ($5 an month) and this gets you access to all the monetised content.

The WordPress plugin is for content creators and let’s you set a few levels of operation.

  • Off – It does nothing
  • Public content and monetisation enabled – This lets anybody read the content, but if they have the browser plugin they seamlessly make a payment.
  • Protected content – This shows the blog post title but presents a paywall type pop up asking the reader to install the plugin and allow payment to see the content.

For the third option you can even enable this on a block by block (Using WordPress’ Gutenberg editor) basis. E.g. only show an introductory summary to everybody with the bulk of the post protected (e.g. a bit how scientific journals work, not that actually approve of having to pay to read the output of state sponsored research) or for example just the next paragraph.

Hello, and Thank You for contributing towards this content. Also next week’s lottery numbers are 7, 13, 19, 27, 31, 52 😉

The selective masking of content works on a Javascript api that can also be used for a bunch of other things. The most obvious being removing adds from pages if people as using a Web Monetization plugin. Another example is to add a counter to the page so the reader can see how much they’ve paid so far.

While I trial this I’m probably just going stick with the first option of just letting everybody read all my posts but leave the meta tag in the background, but I may experiment with mixed content.

Coil are currently paying a rate of $0.36 per hour of content viewed. Given my current viewing figures for posts I doubt I’ll be getting rich with this. I need to look at how this compares to rates for embedded adverts.

I can see time based payments working well for streaming games and video, but I’m still not sure about web content.

For technical content I tend to leave tabs open for a long time to refer back to regularly, but they may stay in my tab bar for multiple days while I work on a project. I’ve asked what the browser plugins do in this situation and I’m told that it only pays out when the tab has focus, which seems like the right approach.

Coil also support Twitch, YouTube and Cinnamon as well as web pages.

There are currently 3 wallet providers for content creators

  • XRP Tip Bot (sort of merged with Uphold details)
  • Stronghold
  • GateHub XRP
  • Uphold

All the payout’s from Coil are in XRP and different wallet providers allow you to exchange that for different currencies and may charge withdrawal fees. At the moment none of them look to directly support GBP as an output currency, but hopefully if the standard takes off then more providers will come online offering different options and competition may help to drive the fees down. Uphold support paying out in £ so once I have enough to make it worth making a withdrawal I’ll give it a go.

Spelling

I’ve spelt monetisation with the British spelling in the title and with the American spelling where it’s used in respect to the proposed W3C standard, because that’s just how the web tends to work these days…