Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, recently published an article on LinkedIn called Big Idea 2015: The Coming Micropayment Disruption. Isaacson envisions the current barriers to microtransactions being broken down by Bitcoin and similar innovations. What makes his piece interesting is that it hits on the points many in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency communities have known for a long time. No burdensome credit card fees and hurdles to making small impulse purchases difficult and costly. Bitcoin microtransactions can also help the publishing industry.
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An easy micropayment system for digital content could help save journalism. At the moment, most news sites are either beholden to advertisers or force readers to buy a subscription. Digital coins would add another option: people could click and pay a few pennies for an article. Frictionless coin systems that allowed us to buy digital content on impulse would support journalists who want to cater to their readers rather than just to advertisers. It would encourage news sites to produce content that is truly valued by users rather than churn out clickbait that aggregates eyeballs for advertisers.
If sites adopted this kind of business model, it could shift the paradigm in new ways previously unheard of with current setups.
Outdated Transaction Models
His critique of the current way small transactions are being done is also spot on and shows just how outdated the current structure is. He has put his money in the ring backing up his rhetoric with action as he believes in the future of microtransactions.
Our current way of handling small transactions is a brain-dead anachronism. Even Apple Pay and other NFC systems, alas, require that payments go through the current banking and credit card systems. This adds transaction costs, both financial and mental, that make small impulse payments less feasible, especially for digital content online. Likewise, instantly transferring money to friends, even those who have PayPal or Popmoney accounts, is more difficult than it should be. That’s why I have become addicted to my Akimbo card, which makes instant money transfers from my phone to friends and workers simple and why I have invested in it and other disruptive money-transfer mechanisms.
2015 is going to be a year where we see tons of innovations built on and around the Bitcoin currency and protocol as well as some other new decentralized technologies. Microtransactions are just the start with smart contracts and more not even imagined yet on the way. Like so many in the cryptocurrency industry, Walter sees the big picture and the road ahead.
The innovation that will shape the coming year, I think, will be the consumer use of digital currencies, such as bitcoin and its derivatives. Companies such as ChangeTip, BitWall, BitPay, and Coinbase – as well as other digital wallets that make use of cybercurrencies or loyalty-points/miles currencies – will empower creators and consumers of content and wrest some power from the Amazons, Alibabas, and Apples. This will upend our current kludgy financial system and ignite an explosion of disruptive innovation.
That sums it up succinctly.
Where do you see microtransactions and more taking us in the upcoming year? Comment below!
Images from Wikimedia Commons, Gil C and Shutterstock.