What is web monetization?
If you spend much time shopping on the web, you may feel that the web is monetized quite enough, thank you.
But what about very small, almost invisible payments for the content that you enjoy every day?
I spend a lot of time on free sites like The Guardian, Wikipedia, NPR and Stack Overflow, but I usually can’t be bothered to haul out my credit card and donate a few well-deserved dollars. It might make a big difference to those sites if there was a way they could earn a few cents from every hour spent by many thousands of visitors.
Web monetization is a way to make that happen.
How does it work for the content provider?
If you want to monetize your website, it’s pretty simple. You have to set up a “wallet,” which is approximately as difficult as tying a shoe. You then add a tag to your site that requests payment from visitors. With the tag added, you can set up your site content based on payment. (For example, you might make payment entirely optional, or you might decide that premium content or ad-free viewing are perks available only to paying visitors.)
Why would a visitor agree to make small payments to these sites?
The site might require payment for certain content or experience. Or visitors may simply want to support free content that they appreciate.
How does it work for the visitor?
If you want to make payments to web-monetized sites, you start by setting up an account with a provider who will handle your payments. (At the moment your choice is pretty easy: you can use any provider so long as it’s Coil.) Then you must get your web browser to play along. You can choose a browser like Puma, which undertands monetization by default, or you can add a plug-in to your favorite browser. You tell your browser which sites you’re willing to pay, how much, what currency to use, etc. That’s it!
Is web monetization ready for prime time?
Sort of. You can set up web monetization today and you might even make (or spend) a few bucks as a result. The future of this standard will depend on how widely it’s taken up. At the moment it’s a bit of niche movement. Coil is working hard to make these protocols into web standards, which would make a very big difference. Stay tuned!