Content payment platform Coil has teamed up with Mozilla and Creative Commons to launch a $100 million fund that supports new ways of monetising independent content – on an internet that the three describe as increasing dominated by “omnipotent platforms, opaque recommendation algorithms” and the reward of “clicks, not quality.”
The project is being built on previous work done by Stefan Thomas, former CTO of payment protocol firm Ripple, and now CEO of Coil – which has pioneered a new internet payment protocol (and aspiring W3C standard) based around an API that allows browsers to make micropayments (fractions of a cent/penny) to content creators.
(Web monetisation lets website creators add a “payments pointer” meta tag on their pages that lets participating user stream payments based on time-on-page and other features, without having to subscribe/offer a significant payment. In return, in theory, they could be served unique content, or ad-free pages. Monzo Bank engineer Sally Lait sums up the emerging standard neatly, with some examples here… )
Mark Surman, executive director at the Mozilla Foundation noted of the “Grant for the Web” project: “The web’s richness and diversity comes from its individual creators: writers, coders, musicians, podcasters, app makers, journalists.
“But in the current web ecosystem, big platforms and invasive, targeted advertising make the rules and the profit. Consumers lose out, too — they unwittingly relinquish reams of personal data when browsing content. That’s the whole idea behind ‘surveillance capitalism’. Our goal in joining Grant for the Web, is to support a new vision of the future. One where creators and consumers can thrive.”
Grant for the Web
Over the next five years, the Grant for the Web programme will disburse $100 million to individuals, projects, and global communities that contribute to a “privacy-centric, open, and accessible web monetization ecosystem”, the three said.
Examples include projects that allow content creators the “financial freedom to move away from advertising and data mining and applications that use the Web Monetization standard to build new functions into streaming payments.”
The fund will in particular support those offering innovations around Web Monetisation: the three acknowledge that there is no shortage of services attempting to generate revenue for online content or service providers, but notes that they typically require both parties to a transaction to join a common network.
“The result is a fragmented Web of closed content and service silos, rather than the global and open Web we desire. Further, users sacrifice their privacy because the service is both, collecting payments from the user and, paying out to the creator/producer/service provider. It is therefor able to correlate these and collect data about which services are used by users.”
With Web Monetization the sender and the receiver are decoupled: “Using the browser as an intermediary, the privacy of users is protected and payments can’t be used to track a user across sites.”
How Does this Work?
The system is based around two key technologies: https://interledger.org: a protocol for sending payments across multiple ledgers and https://paymentpointers.org: a way to express a URL that points to a secure payment initiation endpoint on the Web.
Cable Green, interim CEO of Creative Commons commented: “At Creative Commons, we’re very interested in identifying new ways of rewarding open creativity and enabling people to show their gratitude to creators.
“We’re especially excited by the Grant for the Web’s commitment to putting at least 50 percent of its funding towards projects that are made up of openly-licensed content and software. Creators have told us through our own user research that gratitude is a core element of why they choose to share their work, and micropayments may be an excellent way to offer that gratitude.”