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Micropayments Make Cents
By Jon Newton, p2pnet.net
(more articles from this author)
2003-12-02
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One of the problems with music (or other, come to that) downloads is: if you're only charging 10 cents, say, per whatever and someone only wants a single track - or one poem, or one news story, or one anything - how do you collect?

A dollar or more would be OK - just - for an online e-payment company. But a tenth of a dollar? Forget it.

Or maybe not. Because nickel-and-diming it may soon be an option.

"Several companies are again betting they can mine gold from ferrying around such micropayments," says a Wired story here, saying even Visa USA is exploring the prospect.

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"Boosters believe people could sell countless new creations on the Internet - from essays to advice - if only mechanisms existed to facilitate small payments," the story says. "For authors of popular content, all those pennies would add up."

As things are, transaction costs make most credit card sales under $1 all but pointless. But by giving independent content providers an efficient way to collect money, micropayments could, "widen the Web's pool of things to see, hear and do, keeping the Net from being dominated by media giants and other brand-name companies," says Wired.

"We like to characterize ourselves as e-commerce for the rest of us," says Kurt Huang, co-founder of BitPass, which carries small payments to 100 websites and plans to emerge from 'beta' test mode in December. "What we're trying to do is enable diversity."

And, "Times have definitely changed," said Ron Rivest, an MIT encryption researcher who co-founded micropayment provider Peppercoin in 2001, is quoted as saying. "I think the market is ready."

"Here's the advantage for content providers," says the story. "If you wanted to sell a poem for 20 cents, you wouldn't accept Visa or MasterCard, because the fees involved would drain most, if not all, of your 20 cents. Similarly, PayPal takes 2.9 percent of a sale plus 30 cents, so selling your 20-cent poem would be a dream deferred.

"But with a micropayment carrier, you could expect to give up 15 percent. Your 20-cent poem would bring in a healthy 17 cents. And micropayment providers can make life easier by paying you $17 for every 100 poems, instead of 17 cents after each sale.


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