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The Almighty Buck

Would You Pay A Penny Per Page? 703

nebby writes "How Stuff Works is running an article regarding the "penny per page" model for web site compensation. It sounds like a very viable solution, being simple to understand, transparent to use, and fair to the webmasters and users involved. The only downside to it is that it would require a massive effort on the part of web sites, standards bodies, and/or ISPs to switch over. I know that methods of online payment have been brought up before, but in searching on Google I found no information about any groups or companies looking seriously into moving to this model. I was wondering if any such groups or initiatives have been put together, and if not, why not? :) It doesn't take much to imagine the possibilities of what the web could become if this were put in place ..." Penny-per-page actually sounds like one of the better micropayment ideas I've heard, but is just as vaporous as any of the others so far.
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Would You Pay A Penny Per Page?

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  • But would we... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by weslocke ( 240386 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:13AM (#2562927)
    Have to pay a penny everytime we get into one of those damned porn sponsored click-fests of opening windows?!

    Aggghhh... my credit card bill's high enough already!

    • This was my first thought as well (though not quite the same)...

      If you go to some kind of "pay-per-page" system, what's to stop web sites from pulling all kinds of dirty tricks to drive up the page views. Already sites use pop-up windows and other such things. They also have a tendancy to break down their articles into multiple pages, so you have to click through multiple times to drive up their banner-count.

      These are just little annoyances if the page content is free, but they become unacceptable if I'm paying.
      • Re:But would we... (Score:3, Informative)

        by pagsz ( 450343 )
        If you go to some kind of "pay-per-page" system, what's to stop web sites from pulling all kinds of dirty tricks to drive up the page views. Already sites use pop-up windows and other such things. They also have a tendancy to break down their articles into multiple pages, so you have to click through multiple times to drive up their banner-count.

        From the article (Q & A section [howstuffworks.com]):
        What would prevent a site from having a page that pops up 100 new pages when you land on it to ream the unsuspecting visitor out of a dollar?
        The billing mechanism should track for and eliminate charges for that, as well as for pages that auto-refresh themselves, error and non-existant pages, pages arrived at by pressing the back button, duplicate pages and so on."
        I would assume that the "penny-per-page" charge would only be incurred when a page is specifically requested by the viewer. Also, in reference to splitting content across pages, if sites chop things up too much, nobody will go to them, and they lose their cash flow. It's not a perfect system (what is), but it does present an intruiging idea. It could work.

        Remember, I am an idiot, so I really don't have any idea what I'm talking about,
        • Re:But would we... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by arkanes ( 521690 )
          From a technical point of view, how do you tell the difference between a GET that was fired because the user clicked on a link and one that was fired because Javascript told the browser to do so? Or better yet, because Javascript fired off an onClick() event?
          This sounds more like PHB requirement - "Oh, and it needs to have ponies. People like ponies."
        • Re:But would we... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:58AM (#2563212)
          The billing mechanism should track for and eliminate charges for that, as well as for pages that auto-refresh themselves, error and non-existant pages, pages arrived at by pressing the back button, duplicate pages and so on."
          Alas, not so easy. Even legitimate web site designers have spent the last 6 months figuring out ways to increase their number of pages loaded. Take a look at infoworld.com [infoworld.com]: once one of the most usable technical sites on the web, now a page-hit monstrosity. Yet all of the clicks required to navigate the site are "legitimate", in the sense that they aren't designed solely with the purpose of forcing a click. Deviously, yes, but solely, no.


    • Re:But would we... (Score:4, Informative)

      by fireweaver ( 182346 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:38AM (#2563096)
      After having read all the commentary, I get the impression that many people did not bother to read the article. Some of the objections to penny per page websites were addressed in the article -- NEAR IT'S END -- where it appears our dear readers feared to tread.

      The whole penny per page notion is based on the FIRST visit to a page.

      Objections raised include, but not limited to:
      [1] Autoreload pages: No extra charge.
      [2] Popups: No charge.
      [3] Charge accounting would most likely be done by uour ISP who -already- has your credit into.
      [4] Hitting "back" button -- no charge.

      So kiddies, go back and read the WHOLE article.
      • Re:But would we... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by weslocke ( 240386 )
        Ok, I make a joke and keep getting jumped on for it.

        But let me ask you this, since apparently I'm in a position to defend a damned joke, if you click a link that takes you to a site (There's one penny), then that site opens a new browser and takes you to http://www.teensluts.com (there's another), that one opens a browser to http://www.eurosluts.com (there's another), etc, etc...

        Yes, popups are accounted for. But how would they know that these aren't valid choices that I make? Are they going to credit me for every page that I go to and don't go past the 'Main Page' of? Or will they just have a 'Blacklist' that I can surf for free since they'll think it's all just spam windows?

        I read over the article, and don't remember anything covering this in particular. (However now the link is of course /.'ed, so I can't go back and check.)

        So therefore, I stand by my joke (which at the time was only meant to be humorous) as also being topical and relevant to the discussion.

        IE. bite me.
      • And here's the info you were referring to...

        What would prevent a site from having a page that pops up 100 new pages when you land on it to ream the unsuspecting visitor out of a dollar?
        The billing mechanism should track for and eliminate charges for that, as well as for pages that auto-refresh themselves, error and non-existant pages, pages arrived at by pressing the back button, duplicate pages and so on.

        Again, how in the world are they to know what is 'valid' and what is 'invalid'? Tracking my habits to make sure that I don't actually frequent 'http://www.cowgirlfantasies.com' and taking it off?

        I can see the auto-refresh, backing out, error pages, and the like... but I don't really see how they could tell a valid page-load from an invalid one.
      • Re:But would we... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ichimunki ( 194887 )
        Kiddies? Stop being such a fucking prig, okay? Discussions are easier to have when you don't respond to obvious humor with name-calling and condescension.

        There are very real technical objections to this plan from the sound of it. And frankly I'll bet you any system you set up I can build either clients or servers that subvert it. Will I lose my access? Maybe. Will I find a different way to obtain access. Probably. Look at how hard we've all been going after spammers, are they gone?

        Unless they've got a whole new protocol that works nothing like HTTP(S) I can't even conceive of a way to account for page views as a fee determinant that isn't likely to lead to whole host of technical matters, fraud concerns, and probable privacy violations. Not to mention that most sites would require a complete overhaul because under any scheme you can concoct they are either generating way too many pages (splitting articles) or not enough (masking most of the activity in POSTed form fields).

        As for the articles, I don't like to spend the time to read every freaking article that Slashdot posts. 50% of them are either too short to be informative or too involved to be useful in a reasonable amount of time. All I need in this case is to hear "penny a page" and I've pretty much got my opinion (based on stuff I already know)-- and it is very likely that some erstwhile Slashdotter is going to post a good summary or highly relevant insightful information as part of the discussion. So if there is information I need to know, I'm likely to get it right here at Slashdot.
    • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @11:27AM (#2563425) Homepage Journal
      The entire premise of this is absurd. Imagine the annoyance of going to google and searching for the phrase "to be or not to be" and receiving the following reply for your penny:

      The word "or" was ignored in your query -- for search results including one term or another, use capitalized "OR" between words.

      The following words are very common and were not included in your search: to be to be.

      For my penny, I would have a list of "about 236,000,000" web sites that include the word "not." (Doubt me? Try it yourself.)

      This is why this idea will fail. When a search goes bad, a web page turns out to be mirroring something seen elsewhere, or a the information is outdated or incorrect, we just move on. But when every one of these extracts a penny from us, we will get rightly angered by it.

      Should I pay a penny for each X10 video camera ad that pops up? That would make the owner of that site richer than Bill Gates.

      Nobody said that the web had to be profitable -- and no one is forcing site owners to leave unprofitable sites running. I know that I won't pay a penny a page for what is, more often than not, useless material and I think others will share my opinion. Make a site with valuable content and people will subscribe, but don't expect random visitors to just open their coin purse to you on blind faith that you will provide useful content.
  • What's a page? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Asahi Super Dry ( 531752 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:14AM (#2562934)
    With dynamic server-side page generation, how do you determine exactly what a "page" is?
    • Exactly. And how do I know what the page is before I pay my one cent? Take a look at Tom's Hardware and notice how skimpy most pages are compared to, say, one page of slashdot in flat mode.

      Especially with search engines in the state they are, I might hit two dozens pages trying to find what I'm really searching for. I have no problem paying for the information I want, but I'd be annoyed at paying for content I don't want simply because they haven't indexed it properly.

      Yet at only a penny a page I can't imagine it would be worth their effort to properly index their content.
      • disincentive (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Preposterous Coward ( 211739 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @01:27PM (#2564311)
        Yet at only a penny a page I can't imagine it would be worth their effort to properly index their content.

        It actually might be a disincentive to index their content properly, because they get paid for false hits just like they do for real ones. So unscrupulous webmasters would go looking for popular search terms and then try to get their pages to show up on those terms even if they have nothing to do with them. And you thought search engines were bad now!

      • Re:What's a page? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pos ( 59949 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @01:30PM (#2564348)
        Especially with search engines in the state they are, I might hit two dozens pages trying to find what I'm really searching for. I have no problem paying for the information I want, but I'd be annoyed at paying for content I don't want simply because they haven't indexed it properly.

        As Clay Shirky pointed out [openp2p.com], not to mention the fact that you are adding another thing to think about. Another decision to make every time you reach for an href link.

        The web is alredy too costly from a user GUI standpoint in that every link you click wastes about 5 seconds (YMMV) of your life. That's the real reason people hate sites that split their stories up into pages. The last thing that will fly is adding another thing to consider every time you click a link.

        The only way it would work is by offsetting all of these "costs" with something. I think only "Damned good content" would work, and since this is the internet we're talking about here, for most sites it simply will not fly.

    • S'right. (Score:3, Interesting)

      Mind you, it stop people doing these elaborate flash sites where there's no server reqests (example [wakesport.com]).

      It's a good question though. If you only get half the page, do you only pay half a penny? How much for a 404 - or even a 500?

      Seems to me that you can't charge for something unless you can prove that the "customer" got it. You can't do that with the web. I might be able to prove what my server sent, but I can't prove that you got it.

      Oh yeah, and forget popups - what about redirects?
    • Re:What's a page? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jmccay ( 70985 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @02:10PM (#2564661) Journal
      Not only that, but what if you hit the back button that goes to a server-side page that was generated on the fly, but you had already visited?

      I don't like the idea of paying anying on a per page basis. I pay my ISP already. I don't want to pay for evey page access. I also don't want to pay for those stupid pop-ups!

      What about you public computers--such as those cyber cafes? How would you insure that someone else doesn't use your acount information? What about the poor who might not be able to afford these things? There is too many possible problems. This is just another reason for companies to steal more money from consumors.
  • Mirrors? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Procrasti ( 459372 )
    So, the website gets 1 penny from the mirror operator? That's what I call Return on Investment!!
  • by TreyHarris ( 15366 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:15AM (#2562942)
    If people are compensated for the number of pages visited on their site, the current tendency to split information into multiple pages will get much, much worse.

    I can just see newspapers with a paragraph per page, or web forums (*cough*) with a comment per page and no option to collapse them.

  • I'm already paying $50 a month to get online, there's no way I'm paying more $ to read content I can get for free elsewhere. If something is good and I enjoy the site, then I'll send the sites that need it (the small hobby sites mostly) a donation.
  • Sounds like the AOL experience to me. Sounds like 1995 all over again.
    • charge the spammers! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:32AM (#2563053) Journal
      Even if someone _could_ make all service providers switch over (not likely) the odds are that the first adopters would get creamed on this.

      As I've said before, charging the spammers a penny per message is a far more viable idea. This ties in with mandatory spam licensing with a federal register of spammers, where people can bill the spammers for traffic.

      This kills several birds with one stone.

  • Pay per view (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Contact ( 109819 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:16AM (#2562952)
    Pay per view already works quite nicely in some niche markets - specifically, where users don't have any other way of getting access to that specific information.

    For any other kind of site, forget it. As long as any sites can still make money with a "free" service, who is going to use one that charges? The only way "penny per page" would become viable would be if everybody did it, and that's not going to happen.
  • Think about this: If I am an average "one-or-two sites" surfer, penny a page will be a money losing proposition for the site operators. Why?

    Credit card transactions cost money. Unless the surfer is being billed quarterly, you're talking about a three or four dollar charge each month. Ask any merchant that takes credit cards and they'll tell you it's not even worth their effort to take the cards for transactions less than $20. If it's more than four or five bucks a month, that's way too much. I mean, I'm already paying $45/month for my cable modem, add on twenty more bucks and I'm over my budget for the month...
  • by pointym5 ( 128908 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:18AM (#2562959)
    Calling this scheme "penny-per-page" makes it sound simple, but the basic problem of defining what it is that the user pays for doesn't go away that easily. What about simple page reloads because of browser hiccups? What about sites like Slashdot, where new content slowly encroaches upon old? What about archives? What about Akamai?

    Those aren't new questions, they're the same basic things you encounter as soon as pay-per-anything is considered. I think that complexity makes the subscription model (Salon) more appealing from a management and marketing standpoint, because it's easy to describe and appreciate the value proposition.
    • I agree. I doubt that anyone could get away with/ make a profit from, charging for every page downloaded, what about the front page for example? Would you go to a site where you had to pay just to discover if it had any content worth reading? Especially if it could create a huge number of pop up windows to send your bill through the roof and create distrust for all new websites?

      I also think the penny a page is rather expensive, it only costs 2p a MB for transfers over the atlantic link so a 100k page should only be about at 1/10th of a penny in transport costs which you've already paid most of with your ISP.

      I agree the subscription model looks the best idea, possibly with lite, regular and heavy user rates e.g. 10/100/unlimited articles each month. This would solve both parties problems in having a worthwhile revenue stream and limiting costs. `I think its getting to the stage where the old timers have sites that they would be prepared to pay for the content from and allow providers to invest in improving links etc. My personal votes go for BBC News, Dilbert & /.
    • What about sites like Slashdot, where new content slowly encroaches upon old?

      I think you're missing the big picture here - the quality of the content on slashdot will go down the tubes because no one will preview their comments before submitting them!

      oh well, here come the tpyo's

  • Caching... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BMonger ( 68213 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:18AM (#2562960)
    I'm not down with web servers and ISP's but I would think it would be good for an ISP to cache common url's that people goto (i.e. msn.com for people that don't know how to change their default start page). So if my ISP is caching msn.com and I go to msn.com but never use msn's web servers then who gets the money? My ISP or msn? MSN made the page but my ISP is "hosting" the page.
  • No more google... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XaXXon ( 202882 )
    ©2001 Google - Searching 1,610,476,000 web pages
    * .01 = $16,104,760 .. for EACH refresh of their current database.
  • by MxTxL ( 307166 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:19AM (#2562964)
    I don't know if i'm a typical net surfer, but i imagine I go through probably 500 or more page views a day. That's probably on the high side.... let's say it were just 200.... that's 2 dollars a day. Doesn't sound like much, but in a month that's $60 bucks. That may not sound like much, but think... if your dial-up ISP charged that much, you'd tell them to piss off. If your cable ISP charged that much, it would be on the pricey side (though not entirely unreasonable) now if this price were on top of ISP fees... well, that makes it difficult for the working underclasses (me included) to afford being on the net.

    Hell no on that idea!

    • by dead sun ( 104217 ) <aranach AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:36AM (#2563076) Homepage Journal
      I have to say that I agree on that matter. Not to mention, who is going to do the administrative overhead of figuring out who to charge for what page access and where to send the bill. A hundred seperate 5 cent charges to a credit card? Yeah right, it costs the businesses more than that to place a credit card charge, which is why most places won't accept credit cards unless you spend 5-10 dollars. And if there's a central agency they're going to want their cut. I think the whole idea stinks.

      And don't even go down the road of how I could spoof a frame from a large company to my own website, showing that I have a request a second from say, GE or something. The potential for dishonesty is just as frightening. And then where do you go to dispute charges, and are you willing to dispute 10 or so of these to a largely ineffectual body every single month? I didn't think so.

    • And what about all those times you hit "refresh" because a graphic or two got garbled on the way to your browser? I hit refresh alot (maybe more than I need to.) I hit refresh on the Slashdot URL a few times an hour just to see what is new.

      Absolutely charging $.01 per page is a bad idea. My mom might look at a few pages per week, but I have two machines on all the time each with one or 2 browser windows open.

      If there is a charge per page, something on the order of $.00001 may be more reasonable than $.01 per page.
    • death of opera? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Daeslin ( 95666 )
      That would pretty much nip Opera's scheduled reloads in the butt. I love having it refresh slashdot and a few other pages every 15 minutes.

      Additionally, what about sites such as cnn that use java to autorefresh? How can you be responsible for views that you don't instantiate?

      And then it may lead to crappy site layout so that sites could maximize bill rate. When everyone configs their slashdot account to autoexpand every post to save money, don't you think that slash will nip that in the bud to save on server load and earn Cmdr Taco a few more of his namesakes?
    • Actually, the article mentioned the possiblity of a price cap. Here's the quote from the article, from the Q & A section [howstuffworks.com]:
      People in the U.S. tend to prefer a flat-rate model to a pay-per-unit model. Could there be a flat-rate model with penny per page?
      Probably the easiest way to implement a flat-rate model would be to create a cap. Let's say that the monthly cap were $20 per month. Everyone would know that if they looked at more than 2,000 pages per month, they would pay no more than $20 per month. If they looked at less than 2,000, they would pay only for the pages viewed. For people who hit the cap, the billing model would simply divide the $20 paid by the customer by the number of pages viewed and pay the sites whatever amount that turned out to be per page.
      While it was put in context of the preference for a flat-rate, it could aslo prevent people from running up insane charges each month.

      Thank you for wasting your time by reading this comment,
      • by Hobbex ( 41473 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:05PM (#2563737)
        Probably the easiest way to implement a flat-rate model would be to create a cap. Let's say that the monthly cap were $20 per month. Everyone would know that if they looked at more than 2,000 pages per month, they would pay no more than $20 per month.

        This is not implementable - if it were implemented, people would clearly just run proxies to pool everybody's requests through a single machine (not to mention that it is impossible to enforce a single machine per identity to begin with without going for sinister methods).

        This is typical of the sort of, not just technically, but logically flawed ideas that always come out of these pointless pipedreams not motivated by reality but what people NEED or DESERVE. If any solutions to the actual problems are to come around, then they need to start with the realities of cyberspace, which the penny-per-page idea clearly does not.

        The first reality of cyberspace is that you do not pay for information. Information, once created, can be copied infinitely, so generally available copies have no value - regardless of the emotionally motivated arguments about what creaters NEED or DESERVE. If one is working on a solution for getting people to pay for information online, then one can be sure one's solution is broken.

        The second reality is that there is no possible mapping between identity in cyberspace and identity in real life. A single person can be present as a hundred identities, and single identity can represent a hundred people. Any sort of model that includes ideas about any action "per person" is doomed, as is any model that gives an identity negative trust (that is one where an identity can be treated worse then a previously unknown one).

        The third reality is that all information is equal. If a model measures information in any other unit then bits it is stupid - because one off units like "pages" mean nothing about the actual contents or the the cost of transfer. It is short sited and ends up relying on user hostile (read evil) software to enforce that "page" means the accepted norm.

        However, that is not to say that the problems facing the web are not real. It did not bother me when pages paying millions for content creation folded - paying for content creation hoping to control the information is stupid, so those pages (like the music and film industries) deserved to fall. However, what we are seeing now is the Web reaching the point where pages like this one are folding under their own popularity - because even though they have no costs for creating the content, they are unable to pay for the service of providing the page - that is a real problem.

        Everybody who has ever sent an SMS (cell phone short message) or made a local call in Europe knows about overcharging networks. The costs are set not by the actual costs of transfer, but rather by what the companies controlling the networks (usually oligopolies) find they are able to charge people. That is ridiculous and destructive - but it seems that the Internet is the opposite - an undercharging network.

        The simple truth is that we should be paying when we visit a website - not for the content - you DO NOT pay for content - but for the cost of transfer. It is unfair and unrealistic that a large part of the cost of transfer should fall on the publisher, rather than the person who benefits from the transfer.

        Systems that do not reflect economic realities are dangerous. While the idea of paying a charge on every single IP package routed sounds like a nightmare to many Internet anarchists - the truth is that the fact that we are not paying is gearing up to be a real threat to free speech online since community run services are seizing to be sustainable. The price should be fair, and much lower than then the penny-per-page proposed above, at least for most definitions of "page" (server transfer costs seem between $.001 and $.01 per Megabyte at the moment) - but I fear for the future of the Web, and the net at large, if it does not come about.
    • by kptBlaha ( 522498 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:53AM (#2563184)
      I live in Eastern Europe. My income is about $400 per month which is above average in this country. I have a university degree and am not stupid or lazy. I just live in a poor part of world. I cannot afford to buy any western books or subscribe to any magazines. Web is the only source of information that I have. Web completely changed my world because giving me information freely. I am extremely afraid that someday such scheme will be adopted.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Web completely changed my world because giving me information freely
        The web gave you nothing. People chose to put information on the web and make it available. Those same people could have chose not to do so. Those people gave you that information. The web facilitated that. This is the point of the internet!!

        The status quo works fine. All those people clammoring for new laws (UCITA, DMCA) and new schemes like this are just lazy. They want to put everything right in your face, and put their hands in your pocket at the same time. Well, as Ben Franklin was fond of saying, "You can't have it both ways." Put your content on the *free* internet, or don't. If you want to make a buck, then sell something.

        Note: if you read this comment you will automatically be debited for $0.02 (USD).
      • Don't worry my friend, this is not likely to happen. It's what some of the content driven sites would like to see happen, but it's a pie-in-the-sky type of dream.

        The reason for this is quite simple, web site owners do not have a direct billing relationship with their customers. Web site owners can wish that they could wave their magic wands and get the ISPs to bill their customers for them, but it isn't likely to happen. And if it did happen the bulk of the money raised wouldn't go to the web sites and the content creators, it would go to the ISPs. Many ISPs like AOL or MSN host "special" proprietary content that they use as one of their major draws. As far as they are concerned useful public websites are bad for their bottom line. After all, why pay a premium for AOL and their content when all of the good stuff is on the web for free.

        If the ISPs did build such a thing then web sites would "sign up" for this ISP built billing monstrosity, and the ISP would retain 90% of the monies generated. These web sites would also probably not be available to the customers from other ISPs. That would leave the content creators with the same dilemna that they face today. Either they can sign on with the publishing company and get 10% of the proceeds from a smaller market, or give content away and live off what they can make advertising to a broader market.

        The beautty of the web is that it allows normal people the opportunity to publish information to a very large audience at a very reasonable price. For a lot of people that is precisely what they want.

        Many webmasters with popular sites would love to be able to charge serious money (and believe me, a penny a page is serious money, I make considerably more than you do, but I wouldn't spend much time on a web site that charged a penny a page), but by doing so they are completely overlooking how it was that they became popular. These sites became popular because they were free. For pay sites have largely failed. The only exceptions are those sites that allow someone to access critical information that is even more expensive via other means, and even these sites have not reached any kind of broad appeal.

        As an example, if Slashdot became a subscription only site it wouldn't be too long before most of Slashdot's users migrated to some other site. There is plenty of competition in this space. And creating a Slashdot clone (even without the Slash source code) would be a fairly trivial undertaking. After all, the original Slashdot was written as a computer science student's hobby. Sure, Slashdot is bigger now, but there is also a lot more software available that has nearly the same features as Slashdot. Scoop, Squishdot, PHPNuke, Fingerless, and a whole host of other software products fit this niche nicely.

        Information, especially news, has become a commodity. People that base their business on selling a commodity, whether they are farmers or webmasters, have to learn to live within the profit margins that the public is willing to pay. After all, they can't really raise the price. There are always others who are willing to accept less. If webmasters can't get by with advertising returns, then they had better think about cutting costs (or they had better leverage their popularity into some other money generating venue).

        The good news, for sites like Slashdot, is that they allow advertisers to sell their wares to a very precise audience. I have found that nearly all of Slashdot's advertisements are at least somewhat interesting to me, and I have actually clicked on their "advertisers" link several times looking for a particular ad that I had seen earlier. That sort of targetted advertising, especially to a large audience, is worth quite a bit of money, and eventually the advertising agencies will realize this. Heck, here in the United States magazines like Computerworld and Infoworld (and a whole host of others) are given away to anyone that has even the slightest connection with Information Systems. If advertisers can pay enough so that the publishers can go to the expense of delivering paper based magazines, then they definitely can pay enough to support a popular web site.

        Eventually good sites with large audiences (especially targetted audiences like here on Slashdot) will be able to pay for themselves and even return a bit of a profit. And smaller sites cost so little that there is little need to justify them. There are several sites that I visit regularly that are hosted on DSL lines. These folks don't need a penny per page view to pay their overhead.

        So don't worry, economics are on your side.

    • What I am afraid of is abuse on a massive scale. You think those ad pop ups are annoying now? All you need is a java loop to re-open your page a hundred times and BANG...you're out a buck.
      what kind of preventative measures are going to assusre this doesn't happen???
    • How about this for expensive:

      According to my squid logs, our office generates on average 5000 page hits per day. Considering it will not cache any asp, php, cgi, perl, python, etc. page as well as any page with the no-cache headers, the effectiveness at limiting actual page reads goes way down. So, we average 26% cache hit rate.

      That means at this site alone (we have three others) we are actually loading an average of 3700 pages per day. At $.01 each page, that's $37/day, $185/week, $9620/yr for one site.

      In other words: No, I won't pay $.01 per page for Internet content.

      Besides, what is it with this freaking push for paying for content?! But for a few "premium" channels, TV doesn't work that way. Time and time again, people have shown their unwillingness to buy into these plans. People are willing to pay for ACCESS, not CONTENT. I don't pay $.01 per song I listen to on my radio...I don't pay $.01 per show I watch on TV...so why would I even begin to think paying $.01 every time I read the reg [theregister.co.uk] is acceptable?

    • Moderate size web page, included embedded objects: 100Kbytes, or 800Kbit

      1Mbit bandwidth & shelf space: about $400/mo
      Typical average daily throughput for a web site that serves 1Mbit at midday: 0.75 * 1Mbit == 750Kbps

      So total pages served in a month:

      750*60*60*24*30 / 800 = 2,430,000

      At 1 cent per page, you'd gross $24,300 for the month.

      Total cost of bandwidth per page:

      400 / 2,430,000 = $0.000165

      And you thought the dot-coms were out of hand before...
    • Absolutely...I'd hit the "cap" every month. From the article...

      Let's say that you sat in front of your computer 8 hours a day and looked at a new page every two minutes without interruption 20 days per month.

      Two minutes!?!? When I am cruising around looking for something, I probably average more like a page every two seconds.
  • I fpages are cached how do they get payed?
  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox@NoSPaM.snowfox.net> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:19AM (#2562968) Homepage
    No. I wouldn't pay a penny per page so long as similar material was out there for free. And I would go out of my way to look for free material under a penny-a-page payment model.

    Call me a pessimist, but my belief is that businesses are incapable of handling this kind of thing responsibly. The moment we go to penny-per-page, we'll start to see things artificially segmented across a dozen pages, and all kind of fluff and noise between the front page and any useful pages.

    Make it a penny/nickel/dime a day for access to a whole domain, depending on the quantity and nature of the content within, and I might be interested.

    • And I gaurantee that the advertisements would still be there in one form or another... It's not HBO, people. If you wanted a subscription based ad-free website, you have to do just that -- subscribe, pay a monthly service, etc... Ads will never go away. (suck)
    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Uruk ( 4907 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:55AM (#2563198)
      Make it a penny/nickel/dime a day for access to a whole domain, depending on the quantity and nature of the content within, and I might be interested

      I agree with your points about how companies would segment articles to make you pay more, but at the same time, I don't think this idea would work either. What if you're mirroring an FTP site - should you pay $0.05 for sucking down 4GB of data in a day while the loser who just wanted to buy a t-shirt from the online site pays the same?

      Also the larger problem is that both of these ideas, (yours and the penny-per-page thing) are too web/HTML centric. Is a 5MB shockwave file a page? 10 pages? What about mirroring an FTP site? What about embedded audio in a page? What about downloading trial software?

      My guess is that if any micropayment system is put in place, a lot of content will start to migrate away from the web to other formats. (NNTP, Gopher, FTP, whatever - just something free as in beer) After all, Web != Internet
  • Sure (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tmark ( 230091 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:20AM (#2562975)
    Sure, it sounds great. But the minute some company actually goes and does this, there will be a hue and cry from this and other quarters. "Information wants to be free" , will be the battle cry. A rash of projects to mirror, deliver fee-free, and thereby rip-off the content and intellectual property of these sites will be started, and any efforts to stifle them will be ridiculed and railed against. Companies will sue sites like Slashdot, which even now, in a fee-free world, routinely have users posting verbatim copies of the content which these companies hope to sell, and there will be outrage at this.

    All micropayment and other schemes where people have to pay for something for content sound great until they really happen. Then we'll see how really honest people are. If music serves as any example, I for one am not optimistic.
  • What about if you refresh, are you charged again? Is it per-visit, per-day, etc.? I don't think there is any way this would work. Some articles are already (unnecessarily) split into far too many pages, mostly so they can have more banner ads. Google caches.. who gets paid there?
  • Heh, but really. With everything moving to some sort of pay for content model, all of those computers our tax dollars put into schools for the kiddies to reach that fabled information super-highway aren't going to be as useful as they once were. Maybe at home children can convince their parents to enter that cc number--my parents would have laughed at me if I had dared ask for something like that as a child, but I doubt children in school are going to be able to do so.

    Oh well, as long as individuals keep putting out content independently and without charge, the internet will survive.
  • by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <snowfox@NoSPaM.snowfox.net> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:22AM (#2562984) Homepage
    What does penny-a-page do to spider searches?

    It would be too costly for Google and friends to index a site which demanded a penny for each page read.

  • by weslocke ( 240386 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:22AM (#2562989)
    It's also not going to add up to very much per month. People who log on to check stock prices, look up the weather, read the top news stories and so on might look at 25 or 50 pages a day. They would pay something between $5 and $15 per month for Web content. But let's also take the worst case scenario. Let's say that you sat in front of your computer 8 hours a day and looked at a new page every two minutes without interruption 20 days per month. That would cost $48 for the month. That is the worst case scenario, and it is unlikely anyone is going to do that. The cost will be minimal for just about everyone

    I just popped through 6 pages in about a minute and a half reading/skimming this article. One page every two minutes? Do people actually read that slowly?

    If I'm looking for something, I tend to have two or three browsers open... usually one on Deja that does near constant Usenet searches. Their estimation is about 240 page views per day. Heck, I can almost kill that just on Slashdot within the course of a day.
  • Won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Masem ( 1171 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:23AM (#2562991)
    If I was charged a penny a page for a physical medium item like a newspaper or magazine, I know that 1) there would be no physical problems in delivering that page to me and 2) I can use that page over and over again.

    In the internet medium, what happens if the routing decides to go south while that page was being delivered, requiring me to reload? What happens if I click a link on that page that took me to some place off site to read more about something, then when going back, the browser was forced to re-request the site again? What if I want to use that page as a reference, bookmarking, but being charged a penny ever time I accessed it?

    (Yes, there's ways to bookkeep around all these problems, but I doubt that most sites would figure out all the right nuances).

    There's just too many technical problems that can happen that a pay-per-page scheme can work. Instead, if those sites that cannot continue to fund themselves on banner ads should either look into 1) getting a better targetted banner ad provider, just as how /. has done, which will have a much better click-thru rate for your site, or 2) adopt a pay-per-term such as Salon has done for premium content. In the latter case, if your content is that good, you'll thrive (as I understand it, Salon's Premium is doing well, given their good content to start with), but otherwise, you'll flounder (and maybe for good reason).

    And in the end, while I don't do it know, a web site with content and delivery like Salon would be worth about the same price as a magazine subscription for a year (eg $30-$40/yr) as long as it's unlimited access to the site.

  • Sounds great,

    -click next page-


    -click next page-


    -click next page-

    content starts

    -click next page-

    getting broken up

    -click next page-

    into multiple pages...

    That is to say, you already have web-magazines that divide up articles into far more pages than necessary, just for the sake of more banner ads being displayed. How many more sites are going to start breaking up content into multiple pages, just for the extra pennies?

    And what happens when a page fails to load? Or if I want to revist a page I've already paid for?


  • Page Size (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jebediah21 ( 145272 )
    What is to stop webmasters from further segmenting their pages? One of the best things about the Internet is the unlimited page size. If this goes through you won't be loading up a 300k HTML page, you'll load up 100 pages of 3K HTML and end up paying a dollar. And don't even pretend that banner ads will go away. I like the premise behind this, but it can be abused too easily.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:26AM (#2563013) Homepage

    Take me for example. All thse numbers are being extremely conservative for me.

    I'll say I surf an average of 2 hours per day. Thats 120 minutes per day, or 7200 minutes. Now, assume I spend around 30 seconds ona web page before clicking a link to view another (This is a VERY high estimate for me). Thats around 240 page views per day, or $2.40 by this "penny per page" scheme. Thats 72 dollars per month, in addition to my 45 dollars per month for my DSL connection.

    And this is being conervative! I can easily name days where I spent upwards of 8 hours online, roughly half of which was viewing web pages. This is much too expensive, I'd never go for it. Maybe 0.25 cents per page is more reasonable.

  • It's whether you WANT to charge them a penny/page. Honestly, you think it's wise to charge someone's credit card 1 penny at a time? What about transaction fees with the cardholders' company? And think of the billing statement mess. "Honey, why are there 213 charges for a penny to something called 'OSDN'? Didn someone steal your card over the internet?" *Calls credit card company, who removes the 213 charges, slaps OSDN with the fraud fee for chargebacks*

    As for whether I pay, it's simple, I use the donate button on many pages I frequent often. SomethingAwful.com is a good example of a site I support.

  • No, not the penny per page. I claim it will be too expensive (complicated, etc) to manage. And there will be endless quarrels about what to call 'a page' (what about frame sets, reloads, forwarding, redirection, pop-ups, etc etc etc?).

    What I would prefer is a flat-rate kind of model for web sites, like kuro5hin uses. You pay five Euro a month and can surf the site as much as you want, without banners. Web masters or companies decide what their site is worth and you get a login id or something which identifies you.

    I would pay five Euro a month for some of the sites I view regularly. And I'm considering moving some of the bigger sites I maintain to such a model, because

    • they provide a real service to users (i.e. are not just "here's my home page" stuff)
    • they cost quite some money (EUR 300/month approximately for the server and bandwidth alone)
    • they take away lot of my time.

    The trouble is that this has to happen everywhere, if people are supposed to accept it. It worked with auction sites (Ricardo, QXL, Ebay) so it will probably work with other sites.

    Remember, though - "penny per page" is FAR too complicated.

  • by m0nkyman ( 7101 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:28AM (#2563028) Homepage Journal
    Can you imagine how much invasion of privacy this would entail. They would have to track every page each user went to. The monetary issue aside, this is dead in the water as far as I'm concerned. The implementation of this would be a nightmare.
  • I visited one website this past weekend and it came with 3 popups. Each of them came with a few more. I soon had 20 windows opened. Closing some of them merely launched 3 more. You know what I'm talking about. Doesn't that just encourage them to bombard me with new pages to make money? How much do I have to pay for pages I never wanted? What if I'm only there for a moment to realize that it has no useful information? A penny per page has too many holes.
    • yeah, i mean, how are you supposed to see your free porn through all those pop-up ads? don't they know that you're too timid to go out and buy yourself a nice collection at a porn store, or to sign up for www.teensluts.com?
  • by DullTrev ( 533249 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:30AM (#2563038) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't one of the great things about the web the way that information can get all around the globe quickly? Paying a penny a page would be irritating for most of us in the western world, but it could effectively close off huge sections of the web to citizens of developing countries. Say you "normally" view 5 pages a day on each of 4 or 5 sites - if you're living on $5 a day, are you really going to pay 5% of your income to view US news sites, UK informations sites, etc?
    • Getting around quickly...hmmmm...

      Unless a person wanted to go through a payment form to pay their $0.01 per page, (and of course each page of the payment form would cost another $0.01) these payments would have to be done automagically with credit cards, cookies, etc.

      This penny/page idea seems to be suggesting that we all enable cookies and give our financial information to every single site that we visit. Because how else are we going to pay them? The mechnanics of getting the money from me to them means that I'm going to have to give up a lot of my privacy, and that's unacceptable.

      I know it's getting hard to surf anonymously these days, but why are people so hell-bent to make it utterly impossible?
  • This is stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nate&baxleys,org> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:30AM (#2563041) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, I appreciate the fact that someone has to come up with ideas, and I'm not loaded with alternatives, other than leave it free. But Penny-Per-Page?! It just wouldn't work. For one thing, you might see Slashdot suddenly limit the number of comments per page to 10, or google will only let you see 5 results at a time. "Oh, you want search item #100, that will cost you $.20." For example, the article could have easily been in one page, but HowStuffWorks breaks their stories up to increase banner hits. Don't you think everyone would do that if they got a guaranteed penny per page?

    There are just too many ways for this program to be abused. For instance, the author says we could create a cap of $20 a month. Well, guess who's site I'm going to hit 2000 times on the the first day of each month. MINE! This is not to mention the amount of tracking that would have to be implemented to do this. Maybe we could just let the FBI send us a bill since they will soon know where we've been anyway.

    The only way to make a micropayment plan work is to make it voluntary and give a reward to those who pay other than just the content. Sure you will have freeloaders, but the people who are your return customers will probably pay to keep you around, and if they don't, let them eat banner ads.
  • by Cooty ( 9783 )
    Even this article separates into 9 HTML pages what could have comfortably fit on a few. The idea being, if someone wants to read an article, they must load more banner ads.

    If we end up paying per page view, that sort of thing might run rampant, so one would need to visit 20 or more bogus pages to get to the one they know they want.

    Worse, I know many people, myself included, wouldn't bother browsing much, for the same reason nobody likes per-hour connect charges if they can avoid it. I don't want to feel like I need to savor every URL, and I don't want to wonder whether a site is going to be worth anything before viewing it.

    I'd rather see
    * sites that have free areas, and premium subscriptions if you use them often
    * banding together of several sites that charge a joint membership, or charge ISPs for access. So you decide whether you want a standard or executive internet connection when you sign up for service.

    The first is actually starting to pop up, and it seems to make sense.
  • two issues (Score:2, Insightful)

    by asv108 ( 141455 )
    One characteristic of the Internet that was not mentioned in the article is competition.

    From the Article
    Google.com gets about 100 million page impressions per day right now. With a penny per page, Google would make $1 million a day, or something like $350 million per year.

    Issue #1
    If google adopted the "penny per page" model you would see the numbers get cut in half because there will always be a competitor who will offer free service. That's what's so great about the Internet, your not forced to stick with one supplier. Isn't google profitable anyway?

    Issue #2
    What happens when I search for something on google using the "penny per page" model and I don't find what I'm looking for? The problem with this model is that it doesn't determine the value of the page for the customer. You will be paying a penny for a steak and a penny for Ramen noodles.

  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:34AM (#2563067) Homepage Journal
    I was very interested in seeing how anyone would come up with a Micropayment proposal that would have all the problems of previous proposals, well if you havent read the article don't bother there's nothing of worth in it.

    90% of the article is basically gushing about how cool it would be if somehow a penny-per-page was somehow magically implemented. Details of how this should be implemented and why this hasn't come to pass yet if it is such a good idea are simply ignored. Halfway through reading it I saw so many errors with the logic but kept reading hoping that the answers would show up later in the article but was sorely dissappointed.

    Here's my list of questions that weren't answered in the article:
    1. How exactly will websites bill you a penny per page? Who will handle transactions so small because credit card companies and banks don't seem interested.

    2. What about frequently visited sites? Slashdot probably generates a hundred pages a day for me considering I check it every hour, read comments and check my user history for replies to my comments. Between Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo! News there are probably another hundred hits. Using a penny-a-day I'm paying 2 websites $30 a month.

    3. How will a person's web usage be metered for billing all across the internet without some sort of extensive and intrusive user monitoring?

    4. A penny per page would be expensive for people in third world countries?

    5. How exactly are people who browse from internet kiosks or libraries supposed to be billed? Are websites supposed to now have front pages that lock you out until you enter your credit card number or must everyone who uses the 'net sign up with a central authority before being able to browse the web?

    6. How exactly do they expect the top 1000 websites to form a coalition?

    This article was simply a pile of wishful thinking that didn't get past the "ask my friends if this is a good idea" stage before getting posted to the web, what is sad is that it actually made it's way to Slashdot which unfortunately now gives it some credibility. I wonder if any VCs going to end up flushing a few millions down the drain after this idea simply because it ended up on Slashdot.
  • I'd accept to subscribe to some sites (which is actually what this idea consists of) if in return they'd guarantee me the quality and relevance of the info I could fetch from them.

    But such info should be concurrential, IE not taken from existing books... if it is Free, then I should not been billed, etc. etc.

    Well, actually what I mean is what I originally meant 10 years ago: the Internet is the Great Library, it belongs to the mankind patrimony and as such one can't force people to pay to benefit from it.

    The only decent retribution to such a service which spreads culture among the world would just be to require people to spontaneously accept to contribute to make it a place where we can getr even more knowledge.

    So, well.... no, thanks. You may open paying sites (wasn't Slashdot supposed to become a fee-based service, anyway ?) but you won't see me there, then... And if you look for me, I am webmastering the GNUArt [gnuart.org] websites [gnuart.net]...
  • by Philbert Desenex ( 219355 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:37AM (#2563087) Homepage

    Today, there are very few good business models that work on the Web, and this deficit has a significant effect. The Web is becoming somewhat like a desert. There are some survivors -- Ebay, Yahoo, Amazon and so on -- but nothing new is germinating in any significant way.

    First, "Marshall Brain" seems to tacitly assume that all the WWW should do is make money for corporations. Second, Mr Brain assumes that only corporate sites are worth visiting. Aren't both of these rather flawed? For a single counterexample to both of these flawed assumptions, what about e-prints of scientific papers? The authors of the papers are more interested in getting the papers out there and read than in getting paid when the paper's content gets read. Advancement of Science and all that. Also, the occasional paper has way more interesting content than the usual slick, marketeer-approved corporate collateral web site.

    Brain gets other things wrong, too: When you go to the book store, you never see free books. Walk by a locally-owned used book store. I guarantee that you'll find a "Free! Take one!" rack full of books in front. Walk around any heavy-foot-traffic downtown in the USA and you'll be able to collect a large number of (free!) tracts, flyers and even funny newspapers, like the Onion. Try it, Marshall.

    Marshall Brain's underlying assumptions are totally wrong. His penny-a-page scheme won't work.

    • First, "Marshall Brain" seems to tacitly assume that all the WWW should do is make money for corporations.

      The web is all about money, like it or not. All the servers, bandwidth, telecom infrastructure, it isn't free. This is one of the reasons that $40 a month cable modem access has been failing. Network access is so expensive that $40 barely covers expenses. Ever look at the monthly price of a T1 (hint: it is over $1000)? There's a reason the cost is so high.

      What happens right now is that some guy or girl somewhere puts up an interesting web page about a hobby or other interest. It costs $100 a year to run. Then it gets Slashdotted, so to speak, by a mention in a magazine, and they get hit with a $500 bandwidth charge. They close down the site and have no incentive to ever try it again. For a while during the dot-com boom the site may have been picked up by a company--which is what happened to Slashdot--but that doesn't happen any more.

      What is needed is a way to *balance* the web so that you don't need to be a corporation in order to run a popular site.
  • Micropayments cannot be budgeted by the consumer.

    This is a great thing for service providers. Without being able to track their spending while they're spending, customers are likely to spend more than they mean to. Metered access is a great way for companies to soak their clients, and the Utilities have been doing this since time immemoral.

    Customers, who have to juggle a power bill, gas bill, electricity bill, cable bill, insurance bills, rent/mortgage, car payments and grocery tabs are sick to death of it.

    Things like insurance premiums, loan payments and cable service is provided at a flat rate. Customers love this, because they can budget for it. Gas and Electrcicty are easy to "guesstimate"... usage will vary predictably by month, depending on climate. It's still irritating as hell to figure out, and most renters that =I= know make a point to look for "Utilities Included" apartments. Yes, they're paying more for a worse location even after you add in their yearly utility bills... but the savings in budgeting hassles are worth it to them.

    Metered internet access, on the ISP side, has been a proven looser. Customers are simply not interested in paying less for uncertainty, and very interested in paying more for unused capacity, so long as the bill is easy to figure out.

    Micropayments simply will =not= take off, because customers do not have the patience to budget for them. This is a market reality, and one you budding netrepreneurs had better take to heart: offering more complexity at a lower price is a sucker's game. Offering comprehensive service at a flat, fixed rate will make you more money in the margins, =and= attract customers.

    SoupIsGood Food
  • I have a whole bucket load of pennies so I shouldn't have any problem surfing the web as I normally do.

    Seriously though, when money is involved and it being easy enough to exploit, it wouldn't take long before a model like this would fail.

  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 )

    Next question.

    Aside from fact that nobody will pay for web content anyway (geez, didn't we learn ANYTHING from teh dot-com bust?), the problems with micropayments are setup costs and transaction costs. There's no way to make them low enough for 1-cent transactions. PayPal seems to have reduced the practical minimum to a couple of dollars, but there's still a hassle factor that technology isn't going to overcome; this is the barrier to micropayments.

    Think of cash... there's no setup hassle or cost, and minimal transaction hassle... anybody can pay with cash, anybody can accept it. Now THAT's efficient. And when you think about it, nobody even sells anything for a penny cash anymore, much less through a payment system that involves computers, the Internet, and a third party.
  • No. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rknop ( 240417 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:43AM (#2563121) Homepage

    Sturgeons law is utterly inadequate to describe the web. Way, way, way more than 95% of it is crap.

    What's more, I do a lot of my surfing right now because it's free. I can live without it, and if I have to do any sort of pay-per-view, I will. There are a small number of web services I wouldn't want to live without; those I would much prefer to "subscribe" to. (Pay $15 a year or some such for unlimited use.) Indeed, I already do pay for a couple of them. So I'm not being a "cheap Slashdot freeloader" here. I'm just saying that it's not worth it to me to have to watch the balance rise as I surf the web, and there are a lot of pages out there that aren't even worth $0.01 to me.

    I'm presuming that not all pages will go pay. I certainly don't intend to charge for people to view my fluffy pages (and I will be pissed if my service providers decide to do so under some future version of this scheme), and I'm hoping that a lot of the stuff out there (especially educational and academic things) will remain free. I hope that all of the rest is clearly marked so that I know to avoid it unless it's worth paying for me.


  • They'll refer to it as "penny a pop-up".

    I have a feeling they'll be for it...
  • You know,

    The web was just fine before people decided they needed to make money off of it. I really don't see this working. I certainly wouldn't allow anybody to withdraw from my accounts at random. If the site has content that I am *willing* to pay for, they should have a subscription service. So far the free stuff seems to be working just fine.

    And before the web, usenet, ftp, and gopher worked just fine. The content is no better. The signal to noise ratio is definitely worse.

  • The crappy pages also had to pay me a penny when I look at them and notice that they have nothing to offer.
  • If the ISPs did billing, what about Universities? Libraries? The government? Sure it'd make more sense to fire people who surf too much at work, butI don't want to have to pay to use the library!
  • Would "warez" sites start mirroring pay sites?
  • Umm, no... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aozilla ( 133143 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:47AM (#2563145) Homepage

    Google.com gets about 100 million page impressions per day right now. With a penny per page, Google would make $1 million a day, or something like $350 million per year.

    Umm, no, sorry, that's not how it works. With a penny per page, Google would make $1 a day, or something like $350 per year, because people would use alternatives. Anyone who has taken Microeconomics knows that in an efficient capitalistic model businesses make zero profits. The internet isn't perfectly efficient (we still have patents, in the case of Google), but the fact of the matter is that I have instant access to competition. I need only type in a word, a dot, and com into my browser.

    That by the way is the biggest difference between TV and web. With TV, I watch "The Tick" because it's the only damn thing on at the time. Even if I had cable, my choices would still be limited to the hundreds. With the internet, I have literally millions of choices, and there are almost zero barriers to entry (any Yahoo can pay $20 a month and start her own website). That is the difference with the internet, and it's not one that is ever going to be "fixed" (short of massive government regulation, anyway).

    Would people pay for content? I think the answer is "yes". But a penny a page is simply too high. The only business model I see working is an AOL-like one where you pay a flat fee (say $30/month. Half the fee goes to the connection/bandwidth provider, half goes to the content providers. Sort of like ASCAP for webmaster.

  • It shouldnt be about money, I believe information should be free.

    Anyone who agrees with the GPL, Open source, etc etc, would know that selling websites is as stupid as selling source code.

    Sure people sell source code, but selling source code isnt really helping technology progress faster.

    Websites? We dont have to sell websites since they cost NOTHING to make except time, so why pay for it? You'll be paying some big million dollar corperation like Microsoft a penny to view their site, not some small time site.

    SO why argue about this? hopeufully big huge sites will go out of business except for search engines and "NEEDED" sites, and it will bring the net back to the way it was at its peak in 1996-97, when we had as many user created sites as we had commercial sites.

    With stuff like freenet and distributed computing technologies, hosting a site in theory is free, so the technology is there, GREEDY sites want to chanrge you

    now i understand companies have to make money to pay bills, but when I know technology will make these bills no longer exsist, then i dont care if no one pays.

    Lets forget about charging for sites and develop free hosting alternatives using peer to peer or distributed technologies.

    Websites are art, just like programming is art, websites host information like source code is information, so if we can have "free" software, why not a free web?
  • Money. Money is a great medium of exchange for the industrial era. It's okay for the digital era. And almost completely unacceptable for the digital information era. Micropayments are an idea which attempts to address this situation - but really they aren't money as we think of it, because they aren't really a medium of exchange. Personally, I still think that the web is headed in the direction of free information, and pay for services. Fee-per-page is not really in this direction, and so, as other posters have commented, is not really a viable solution. Personally, my biggest problem with any fee-oriented approach to the web is that it creates more barriers to entry for the less-priviledge portions of _world_ society. The web has been building this great potential as an equalizer (information-wise) for all people of the world. The technologies are still expensive so it is still just potential... but still, it is getting there. That was a bit of a ramble :-)
  • BBSpot (Score:2, Funny)

    I think BBSpot [bbspot.com] gave us a glimpse of the future this will lead to with this review [bbspot.com] of a new video card.
  • by Lurkingrue ( 521019 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:48AM (#2563150)
    Ever since Scott McCloud (of Zot! and Understanding Comics fame) started touting the idea of web-based micropayments, I've been seeing these schemes crop up more and more often. The one thing I've noticed is that they all seem to be performing the most horrible contortions to twist the web into something its not...all for a buck.

    And, I can't help wondering: what if the WWW just isn't a good medium for most methods of making money? What if, after all this, its just able to do what it was originally designed to do (i.e.: serve up information-based sites, mostly educational and techinical)?

    Pr0n notwithstanding, I don't know why nobody seems ready to consider that the web may be just good for a few commercial storefronts (in select markets), distributing some basic corporate information (acting as an informational "web presence" to companies who care to do so), and leaving the majority of traffic for personal and educational/technical sites.

    I'm not a Luddite who longs for the "good old days" of the web (although I have been known to go back to using lynx in pinch), but it just seems that most models of revenue-generation on the web DON'T WORK. Hundreds of companies have gone out of business ignoring this. Sure, maybe there's a way to circumvent the web's limitations, but why doesn't any industry consider that the web WILL NOT make most of them money? It seems to me that the web is not the tool that they're looking for, and they're trying to force it to do things it wasn't meant to do...like trying to use a screwdriver to pound nails -- sure, you can do it, but it would make more sense to look for something like a hammer.
  • As others have pointed out, Penny a page schemes are more expensive than they sound.

    I wonder if the better solution is something like a blast from the past?

    Years ago, before the internet, I joined compuserve. For my hourly fee, I had access to a number of different forums. I think AOL works something like this now (don't use it, can't be sure). In a way, ISP's work that way: for your access fee, you are hooked to all of the internet.

    Perhaps "consortium providers" can strike deals with groups of interesting web sites, actting as middlemen (I know, I know. It's a dreaded word) providing access on a monthly fee basis.

    By providing access to a variety of sites, users don't look at a cascading stack of fees from individual sites. They don't get charged if they go back to a site, they don't feel bad about a site whose quality goes up and down.

    Paying to view web pages may not fly, but it certainly won't fly if it's not reasonably convenient, reasonably affordable to surfers and reasonably economic to the providers.
  • reality (Score:2, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 )
    The biggest problem is that the author is not living in the real world. The biggest problem with micropayments is that the cost of administering the system is more than the cash flowing through it. Every transaction on the visa network costs ~$.45 so any payment less than that the cost of the transaction is more than the transaction itself. While the visa network may not be the most efficient model possible, it is arguably a pretty damn good international financial network. There will be some more efficient system developed. This system it will still have a floor of how cheap a payment can be, and I can assure you it will be a lot higher than a penny. The other problem with micropayments is that most of the info on the net just isn't worth paying for directly.
  • by Shishak ( 12540 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:50AM (#2563164) Homepage
    There is a company that does per-click billing. It can be either per page or per article. They have been refining the technology for several years. It works, is anonymous, you give them your credit card and the content provider bills through them. You don't need to give the content provider any credit information. In fact you don't need to give them any personal information just your clickshare ID.

    Check it out www.clickshare.com [clickshare.com]
  • If the penny a page theory were a reality, would web designers make their sites have more pages, in other words, split their information into multiple pages, or would they economize their sites by packing a lot of information in one page to save their customers money? I'm sure their is a happy medium, where the customer is satisfied by the amount of info they get before they hit the "next" button, and the company that provides the information is getting enough money. Also, it would make a lot of sense to include the ISP in all of this too, or create an organization to make sure that everyone gets web access. Imagine the interenet worked like this:

    1. An organization monitors how many pages you download and charges you $0.01/per page.
    2. Of the money they collect, they keep just enough to allow them to provide the internet connection, the rest goes to the websites who are providing content.
    3. Net access is free to the end user, you ONLY have to pay the $0.01/per page fee.

    I think that would make a lot more sense, and maybe even allow EVERYONE to have broadband access because websites would pour more money into internet infrastructure (the faster you download pages, the more money they get). Unfortunately, a business model like this will never happen because we are rooted to our current ideas. At least it will not happen over night.
  • The right way to charge for online use is going to have to be a hybrid system. For sites that I frequent (say WSJ & /.), a subscription based model seems best to me -- a flat monthly fee that's worth it because I'm on their site alot. For sites that I need to use occassionally, say consumerreports.com, I'd be much happier giving them say 25 cents for every car I look up than their current $4 monthly charge -- I don't plan to be in the market for very long. And for many others, like those where the audience is well targeted, ad-banners do work well, which makes things even simpler in those cases.

    No silver bullet, just a bagful of clips.

  • by eyeball ( 17206 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @10:52AM (#2563176) Journal
    A hypothetical article from the future on the downfall of the web:

    In the beginning it was a penny per page, theoretically to just recover the cost of serving the page. Then a few sites decided their content is worth more, so they charged a few more pennies. Soon pages costed a dollar or more.

    Meanwhile thousands of people had already been copying the content to their local disk to view again in the future, or perhaps share with a friend.

    Since web sites were finally making a little money, large contect companies began buying them all up. In the end only a handful of companies owned a majority of the contant on the net. Prices rose and rose.. The actual authors were of course being paid only small fractions of a penny.

    All of a sudden the price/page hits a certain sweet-spot where the cost is higher than the value, and people start file-swapping pages. The WWWAA (World Wide Web Association of America) was formed to 'protect web page author's rights'. Lobbyists were deployed, campains were launched, laws were passed, and copyright protection mechanisms were put in place and made illegal to circumvent.

    F that.

  • Who really benifits from penny per page technology, small sites? No. Important sites? No. Big corperate sites like MSN.com and Yahoo.com? YES!

    So why should WE support something not even built for US.

    We wouldnt make ANY money from penny per page technology if we cant get any hits!!

    We are better off using memberships and incentives if we need to make money.

    Want to access a certain portion of the site? SUBSCRIBE for $2 a month.

    This penny idea benifits only people who get a billion hits, not sites that are important but may not get as many hits.

    Think about it.

    I dont agree with paying for information, but i WILL pay for service, I WILL pay a small subscrition, maybe $5 a year to a website which i really value, at the most $10.

    And i think others will too, but i wont pay to view a site, Thats the WRONG IDEA.

    Thats like the RIAAs idea of paying to LISTEN to music that you dont REALLY own.

    Or Microsofts .Net idea of renting software.

    This doesnt benifit the economy, or the consumer, it only benifits the people who already have a monopoly, dont fall for it.
  • OK, "a penny a page" sounds all well and good, but it reminds me of a story about the early U.S. mint, which spent over 1 penny to mint a penny. Pretty cost-ineffective.

    So what does it cost per page view to track and bill? If it costs more than $0.01, then this system would be a further drain on resources, rather than paying for anything.

    One of the big problems with the micropayment model is that it creates a lot of overhead. Keeping track of all those views, payments, etc., as it stands now, would require a lot more resources -- resources that could go for other things.

  • I don't think I could allow myself to be charged 'per page'. Browsing the internet, and all the information there, that doesn't require information, should be free. I definitely don't want my ISP to start charging me a penny per page. Why not charge people who link to us too while we are at it? I saw an interesting thing about somehow that people might only 'liscense' links once, so not just anybody could link, and in todays day and age of the DMCA, that would seem likely
    Although my page, traicovn.com, isn't very interesting, I don't think that I could charge a penny for a view, even if it was the best page on the net
    The other issue that comes to mind is it isn't really page views that kill your bandwidth and bandwidth bills, it's the number of kilobytes downloaded... So this leads me to think that perhaps it should be charged by the amount of bandwidth each person uses when they access your site? Surely /. would like this because of first posters who constantly refresh slashdot.org, right?

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that a pay system to view the pages on the internet WOULD be a possibility, but it's not probable, and regardless, it's not a good idea. Keep the internet free.... I see where people want to make more profit, especially in times where it's hard to make a buck in the .com business, however this is not the way. This will make people more afraid of the net, make them afraid of racking up a huge bill, and discourage casual browsers on the internet... In addition, if I get three pop up ads, that's three cents, because each of those is it's own page. Now is that really fair? For me to be paying to view an advertisement from your site? I didn't think so...
  • But that's for toilet paper.

    That stuff's expensive. Maybe I should diet or something...
  • ENDLESS issues... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Daniel Rutter ( 126873 ) <dan@dansdata.com> on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:18PM (#2563837) Homepage
    I suspect I'm not the only person who thought of this [penny-arcade.com] while reading that article (yes, I did read all of it, thanks for asking :-).

    This idea's the R-pentomino [freeserve.co.uk] of the micropayments world; it's possibly the simplest looking micropayments idea ever, on the face of it, but as soon as you let the thing run it explodes into a giant mess.

    A few more questions for Marshall Brain to answer on v1.1 of this page [howstuffworks.com]:

    Q: What if you live somewhere where a penny is enough to buy dinner?

    Q: Are payments from people outside the USA to be made according to the exchange rate when the page was loaded, or the exchange rate when the user's Internet bill comes due at the end of the month?

    Q: What about countries that refuse to ratify the international IP Trade Treaty that'll be needed to make this work? Here's a hint: China ain't gonna.

    Q: If some countries refuse to pay, what's to stop ISPs in countries that do ratify the treaty from starting offshore data-haven proxies?

    Q: What if you're someone who runs a proxy? What if your ISP does? What international organisation is going to force people to pay for pages that were never delivered from the server at the other end of the pipe, because they came from one of the numerous caches in between? Do the proxy owners get the money?

    Q: And the flipside of that one - what if some webmaster somewhere insists that there are 250,000 pageloads in his server log from your IP, but you disagree?

    Q: What about people who don't want users to have to pay to read their work? Will there be special HTML headers to specify free pages? What's to stop people making proxies that put those headers on everything that passes through, then?

    I leave the next three billion giant show-stopping problems with this idea as an exercise for the reader. That seems fair enough to me, as Marshall Brain pretty much handwaved the whole implementation issue.

    Plus, he's got some analogy problems. To quote the first page of the article:

    "When you go to the book store, you never see free books. It is also very rare to find books containing advertising. Instead, people pay directly for the information that books contain because the information is valuable to them."

    On the other hand, when you go to the library, you can read all of the books you like for free. And take 'em home, too. Who said anything about the Web being a book store?

    And you know what? There are books containing advertising. They're called "magazines". I'm told that there are things called "newspapers", too. The cover prices of these publications generally make only a small contribution towards their bottom line; they run on ads.

    I think you'll find that, commercially speaking, the ad-supported paper publications have proved to be a somewhat more vibrant market segment than the ad-free flavour of publishing.

    Not that I think advertising is necessarily a good way to make the Web profitable. I just object to this strange assumption that loading a Web page is obviously an act for which you should pay. Even if the page turns out to be useless. Nobody makes me buy a book just because I picked it off the shelf and read the blurb on the back.

    Oh, yeah. Books aren't priced by the page, either. Well, not unless you're one of those interior-decoration types who buys books of a certain colour by the yard.

    Marshall Brain does great when he talks about refrigerators [howstuffworks.com] and rocket motors [howstuffworks.com]. But his site's called "How Stuff Works", not "Stuff I Think Might Perhaps Be Cool But Haven't Any Idea At All How It Might Work", and so I see no reason to cut the guy any slack on a sloppy job like this :-).

  • by localman ( 111171 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @01:48PM (#2564452) Homepage
    Page is an undefined and quantity and is therefore exploitable by both ends of the transaction. Uncool.

    How about a penny per meg(+/-)? Bandwidthis what costs, so therefore that should be the foundation for our payment system, IMHO. People pay their ISP's for the connection on their end, but the only reason they want a connection is because of those maintaining servers. Perhaps the ISP should be responsible for charging their customers for bandwidth and kicking the cost back to the sites that the user went to proportionately. There could also be a cap as this article suggested, so that it may end up being less than a penny per meg, but that it still gets distributed evenly across the sites the user went to.

    This solves the porn site pop-up problem, too, as you can usually kill out of those before any substantial amount of data has been downloaded, even if 100 "pages" have popped up. Plus ISP's (moreso than single users) would address fraudulent charges.

    Browsers could include a little meter on the status bar as well, so they could get an idea how much they were using.

    Obviously this is not as cool for the masses as the current system of getting everything for nothing, but if something isn't done to help out the content providers soon, we'll have a tradgedy of the commons on our hands.

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @02:00PM (#2564552) Homepage
    One of the wonderful things about the net is that you can often wander into new places. For instance, I was looking for a driver the other day, wandered into sites about building drivers, and then into sites about efficient low-level C coding. The problem with the PaP scheme is that I would have been much less likely to explore a new area (which might have been worthless) had I been forced to pay for each access. This is the major problem with the scheme, as it changes the web from a medium of exploration to a medium of delivery.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong