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My initial thoughts on Web Monetization

Jan Dvorak
Developer, organizer and sci-fi writer.
・4 min read

Web Monetization has become a popular topic on dev.to and in other developer's circles, but only in the past two weeks I had time to dive into it and implement it on Literary Universe.

My first though was that this was similar to what Brave browser is doing, except potentially available for wider audience. The potential here is because Web Monetization is proposed as a web standard and has an API that can be tapped into to open or hide features on the website when there is contribution from the visitor.

The initial implementation is also super straight forward with just addition of one meta tag. But even that is not as simple as it seems. For the content you need Interledger payment pointer which you need to obtain from a third-party service. Not a big deal since you would need some provider anyway for monetary transactions. The problem here though comes for customers, but more about that later.

Second part of the implementation has been allowing for users to add their own Interledger payment pointers that would be added to their content like here on dev.to. Simple enough, no problem, but the problem came when it is time to split the revenue. Web Monetization sadly does not offer an advance functionality like this and instead one has to build Probabilistic Revenue Sharing to achieve any semblance of it. Which is where third part of integration for Literary Universe comes in, allowing the content owner to define the split.

It is important to note that Web Monetization is not there to facilitate regular payments or anything bigger. It is micro transactions, so expecting something bigger out of it makes no sense. The perfect use case being hiding of ads, which sadly for Literary Universe is not something that is needed (we don't have any ads due to concerns for privacy).

In this way it is perfect for any websites that currently rely on ads, individuals, FOSS and enthusiast and I would recommend that everyone implements it. But for a larger adoption and for it to meaningful for creators there are a few major hurdles that need to be overcome.

First hurdle is convenience and related to that is also knowledge of the visitors that Web Monetization exists. I think what we need here is support and integration in all major browsers. Problem here is that one of the main use cases is removal of advertising from the site, so I'm afraid that Google is not going to back this which would be exactly the company needed to really get this going. Another problem in this part is that with few exceptions I feel it would be hard to convince people to pay for just visiting websites via Web Monetization as the really interesting content is going to be locked behind more advanced monetization and then why pay for something that is already free and I can get rid of ads with adblock. Still I do believe that if Web Monetization becomes integrated into more browser with easy on boarding for users that will move things forward significantly.

Second hurdle is for more creators to use it. For most web developers setting up a crypto wallet to get a Interledger Payment Pointer will be super easy and straight forward. Still outside of our bubble I think it will prove much harder to adopt. First problem will be that the money is received on another service. While the more freedom minded will relish that one service provider doesn't have control over the money they receive for others it might be more hustle to setup the process of money retrieval on another service. A hustle that they might not be interested in doing (at least until there is a large enough paying audience to incentivize it).

Despite these issues I would like to encourage everyone to integrate Web Monetization as the more websites use it, the more there is going to be interest in developing it and the knowledge about it is going to spread and with that there might be a chance in overcoming the hurdles I talked about.

At Literary Universe we will soon add settings for splitting on Universes and Stories and after that we plan to do a bit more experiments where to add it and how to add things to incentivize both readers and writers to adopt it, like metric on how many people had Web Monetization enabled or adding option to add hidden fields in encyclopedia that will only show to subscribers or people with Web Monetization. Hopefully in few months I will have a continuation for this post.

What are your thoughts and what do you think could be some incentives for adoption?


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Discussion (3)

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kakadais profile image
kakadais

Great job, I just found this accidentally.
Did you build the Literary Universe by yourself?
it seems like obviously build by Meteor as well ;)

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storytellercz profile image
Jan Dvorak Author

Yes, this has been my passion project for few years.