The rise of Bitcoin, the digital cryptocurrency, has resurrected the hope of facilitating easy micropayments for content online, writes Walter Isaacson on Time Magazine.
Isaacson is the author of the recently published "The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution."
Producing compelling content in journalism and the art takes time, effort, and energy. It's evident that creators must be paid for their work. Otherwise, they will be forced to do other things for a living, and everyone will lose. But it's difficult to be paid for online content, not only because today's consumers expect online content to be available for free, but also because today's payment systems are not simple enough and have too much transaction overhead for small payments.
Micropayments can provide a solution, and save online journalism and the arts. An easy micropayment system could permit content creators to pay the rent by producing content valued by users.
Also read: Top 10 Things Bitcoin Can Offer the World
"We need something like digital coins," Isaacson wrote in 2009, "that will permit impulse purchases of a newspaper, magazine, article, blog or video for a penny, nickel, dime or whatever the creator chooses to charge."
Bitcoin Enables Simple And Cheap Micropayments
That was not technically feasible back then. But now Bitcoin can enable micropayments to be made simply, and with minimal transaction costs.
Internet pioneers such as Ted Nelson, Marc Andreessen and Tim Berners-Lee thought that the Internet should have a built-in framework for micropayments. Berners-Lee tried to include micropayments in Web protocols, but the idea was never implemented. He revived the effort in 2013, and said:
"We are looking at micropayment protocols again. The ability to pay for a good article or song could support more people who write things or make music."
The "official" micropayment protocols still have not been written. But Bitcoin makes them unnecessary, because sending a micropayment with Bitcoin can be as easy and immediate as clicking a button.
Images from Shutterstock.