[Proposal] Web Monetization - A new Revenue Model for the Web

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An API that allows Web applications to request a stream of very small payments from the user.

Web Monetization is an alternative revenue model for the Web. It allows Websites to earn revenue from users without:

  • Requiring users to sign-up to a subscription
  • Needing to deliver content/services through 3rd-party platforms
  • Advertising

For a more detailed description, see the Explainer.
There is also an early Specification, which is obviously subject to change.

Basic Flow

Users sign up with a Web Monetization provider (or run their own) which is capable of sending streams of very small payments to websites.

Websites sign up with a Web Monetization receiver, a specialised digital wallet capable of processing an incoming stream of very small payments.

When the user visits the website, her browser parses a <meta> tag in the header of the site that contains the websites receiving address.

The browser invokes the user’s WM provider which begins sending payments to the website.

For each payment the browser emits an event that the website can listen for.

In return for payment the website provides the user with an alternative “paid for” experience such as not showing advertising, delivering premium content etc.

Privacy

The Web Monetization model decouples the user’s provider (making payments on their behalf) from the website’s receiver (a digital wallet capable of accepting payments for the website). By using the browser as an intermediary the privacy of the user is preserved from both the website and the WM provider.

By providing an alternative revenue model to advertising, WM indirectly reduces the need for websites to do invasive tracking of their users.

Experience

Coil (a WM provider) has been using this model since October 2018 and has thus far made billions of micropayments to creators and websites. We would like the model to become a standard and for the ecosystem of providers and receivers to grow and become competitive to the benefit of users, creators and website owners.

Coil hosts a platform for creators to post content and earn revenue, however the real advantage of WM over previous efforts to solve this same problem is the ability of creators/websites, with no relationship to Coil, to earn revenue from Coil users.

This is only possible if the browser intermediates between the user and website (currently implemented as a browser extension by Coil) necessitating a browser-level API.

2 Likes

I think we need to discuss the different types of privacy that different Payment Providers could offer, as differentiators.

Provider X needs only to know the origin of the page (and the creator’s payment pointer in the metatag). That’s enough to send money.

Provider Y might want to offer extra opportunities - e.g., a creator registers a YouTube/ SoundCloud URL with them (because there is no way to add one’s own metatag at the moment). A web visitor with Provider Y registered as their payment provider could consent to sharing the full URL with the provider so they can pay registered content creators.

Providers could also offer to not pay sites on a blacklist, or boost payments to sites on a whitelist. (These lists could be in-browser, so browsers could pass a banned/ boosted flag to the provider. Alernatively, sites registed as banned in the browser could simply ignore the monetization metatag, and therefore pass no info to the payment provider that this URL is banned, which I would prefer as a user.)

I have logged an issue to discuss this further.

I think it boils down to some kind of spectrum of user privacy vs provider capability.

On the one end of the spectrum we have maximum user privacy where users don’t have the option of sharing any data with the providers and providers just pay every website the user visits the same amount.

On the other end users sign up with the provider and opt in to share data about their browsing activity with the provider and in return the provider pays out different amounts to different sites based on what they believe is best for the user.