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Would You Use a Payment System Built by Pirates?

Peter Sunde, apparently not content with having co-founded the world’s most popular index of copyright-infringing movies, music and software (the BitTorrent tracker known as The Pirate Bay) as well as inspiring the creation of an actual political party dedicated to anti-copyright causes (Sweden’s Pirate Party), seems to have his heart set on revolutionizing the world of online payments as well. Sunde recently launched a micropayment service called Flattr that’s currently accepting beta testers.

Judging from the demo video below, Flattr is a combination of an all-you-can-eat payment system and a tip jar. Users sign up for the service and pay a monthly fee, which then gets distributed to the various web sites or individuals who have registered to receive payments through Flattr — but the payments are based on users clicking the Flattr button on each web site to which they want to donate. The service says it’s designed for musicians, artists, software creators, programmers and anyone else who wants to give users or fans an easy way to pay for their content.

It’s not clear whether Flattr is an attempt to compensate for all of the music, software and other creative works that The Pirate Bay has helped people download without paying for (after the site was successfully sued in Sweden last year, it agreed to be acquired by a gaming company that planned to stop illegal downloads, but the sale later fell through). What is pretty clear, however, is that Sunde is going to have quite a job on his hands with his new startup — not only is he associated with The Pirate Bay, but micropayments are an idea that has defeated virtually everyone who has ever tried to implement them, including NeBill, Millicent, CyberCash, DigiCash, Peppercoin, Beenz and half a dozen others that I’m probably forgetting about. On the other hand, at least Sunde is thinking big.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Dunechaser

Related content from GigaOM Pro:

Could Activist-Style Micropayments Be A Real-Time Ad Model?

11 Responses to “Would You Use a Payment System Built by Pirates?”

  1. I think you have misunderstood it slightly. It’s not about traditional micropayments in the sense of compensating someone. It’s about showing gratitude and decreasing the mental friction of the decision by establishing the total amount ahead of time.

  2. Google could really grab this market in a heartbeat by offering a new sideline to their Google AdSense/AdWords program: blogger-promoted ads. Right now, it’s illegal to say “Click on my ads!” You’ll get banned from AdSense permanently in 3 seconds flat.

    But if Google offered advertisers the ability to offer specific payouts for website-owner-guided clicks, in exchange for the user spending a specified period of time on the visited ad-site, I think website owners would jump at the chance.

    The website owner could pick the ad code and create a request for the specified income (say, 25 cents per click or 10 cents per click or whatever) as well as a limit for the visit time per user clicking (maximum 30 seconds, maximum 5 pages), Google can create the time-clock or page-count for the ad-visit, and advertisers could jump at that opportunity with zero risk of false clicks (by using JavaScript to confirm that the user is actually on the site, or creating website interactivity to show a life human is there).

    How many readers would say “I like this site, so I’ll go look at this GM ad site for 30 seconds and earn the site author $0.25”? Maybe a lot.

    Micropayments will never work.