Let's feed the artist. The rise of the micro paywall

It’s pretty clear that the idea of helping content providers generate an income is important to a lot of people. Here is my take on it.

TLDR: I propose that Safe allows you to put a paywall in front of any piece of data and requires payment before allowing the data to be downloaded. To understand why this is actually a pretty solid idea, please read on.

What’s a paywall?
A paywall is a mechanism which gives access to a specific piece of content in exchange of payment.
“Omg I HATE that!”, you say. I know, me too, but hear me out.

What if the amount is so small that you wouldn’t think twice about spending it. For example, what if reading the latest strip of XKCD, the latest post of WaitButWhy or your favorite song would cost you 0.0001$. Everything you would consume in a day would amount to not even a cent. Event better, it’s not fiat you are paying with, it’s Safecoins, the currency that is automatically generated by your computer when you sleep. How far off of your way would you be willing to go to not spend it? I think a great majority of people would gladly pay it and not think twice about it.

Of course, paying for everything will become very unpractical if you need to micro-manage every payment. The payment process needs to be much more fluid then that. So I propose that instead of doing that, we instead control all payment more like we control a faucet. The wallet would give us parameters to adjust the spending flow: biggest amount allowed, max spending rate, white/black list, micro-manage all, stop all, spending history, etc. This way, you don’t have to accept every payment; you simply set your wallet to slowly consume your Safecoins while surfing the network, just like your car consumes fuel.

Why is this awesome?
There are a lot of reasons why this works better than other automatic system proposed before. Among other things I’ll say that:

  • It acknowledges the fact that not all content as the same value and empower artists to set their price. By setting their price, artists understand that if they are not reasonable people will find a way to go around it and pirate the content, they can’t be too greedy.
  • It makes the Safe economy extremely fluid. We now have thousands of reason to put back our coins back into the system for farmer to farm.
  • It can’t be gamed. At all.
  • It naturally create a link between the consumer and the provider, communities are born from that relationship. Artist will know which wallet ID gives them the more resources and users will know which artist they support the most.
  • Add a little bit of smart contract and you have a build in Kickstarter platform. An artist can set a high price for his next work and his fan will be able to unlock it once they have gathered enough funds. For example: how long would it take for Radiohead to get a million dollar from its fan to unlock their next song?
  • It transforms every content provider into an autonomous worker and contrary to other scheme, they would actually be able to make a living off that.

I’m not an artist, but if I had to pick between a network that allows me to set the price of my content, however small I want it to be or a network that splits the GET reward among every single soul on it, I wouldn’t think twice about it.

What about the people outside the network?
People can set the price to whatever they want so there’s still gonna be free content, but for everything else, they are welcome to join.

EDIT: As a result of the conversation, I change the proposal and put the concept of the fluid/faucet wallet on the ice. Now every payment needs to be appoved by clicking yes in a popup. Since popups are annoying, what this will do is assure that only content that are worth paying for have a paywall and that everything else remains free. Anyone who tries to abuse the paywall feature will end up with an app that is a nightmare to use and will lose his users.


I hate the idea of artists being able to set their price.

I also think it should be possible to consume and veto or subsequently adjust the auto payment.

The problem with your propsal as I understand it is its a slippery slope back into EULA style info enclosure and supplier unions. It will lead to a top down situation. Its also will fail against the more open situation. The end user is the most important point and only reasonable center of gravity as we will all be end users.

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Nice idea and well presented thoughts as usual.

Lots of positives IMO which you have summarised.

Negatives, I’m good at those :wink:

  • the usual posting copied content issue, which all reward systems suffer from, so not really a disadvantage
  • paywalls everywhere, however small - could be a big disincentive to adoption. You could try to mitigate by limiting the paywall amounts, but I doubt that can be done effectively.

So I think the effect is to create an internet that is full of paywalls where we can’t be sure the prices will be insignificant for a day of browsing. As a user, I’m not feeling good about this and it puts me off - even though I support the principle of creators getting paid and me paying what I’m happy to pay. I have these feeling it works create a web that it’s not actually very free or accessible, and I don’t like that at all.

I think this is the area that needs thinking through, because otherwise it sounds a good idea.

Maybe publishers can set a percentage of a fee per visit (or view) , but users decide the magnitude of the fee per visit / view. That way users stay in control of their spend, but publishers can express the value they want to obtain, if only relatively.

A SAFE browser could display publisher % fees with a progress bar or in bands using colour coding in the toolbar.

Would all publishers just set this to 100%?
Would all users just set their fee to the allowed minimum?

Well, not all, but who knows if too many to make it practical, but maybe the network could monitor and regulate this? I leave that as an exercise for the reader :smile:

Nice idea, let’s explore it further.

Yes but also lets not forget free access to data for everyone, even those with no cash, perhaps especially so as these people given the information and chance will have cash if it all works out. For the time being there are just too many with none and I see this is something we need to address with gusto and get everyone on board. Not for socialism, communism or any anti profit motive, but for the sheer fact we are a single species and will work better when we are all involved, however small a contribution we all make. Profits are higher with higher participation rates, there is very little philanthropic about this, to me it’s just arithmetic 101 and morally justifiable as well as any other measure such as cash or innovations etc.

We must, I feel, break every barrier between the poorest and richest (by rich I mean access to clean water, food and safe housing), otherwise I feel all the free market will mean free for some, slavery for others. Perhaps it is a phased approach, but I cannot think we can leave any behind here and if we really want progress we must include all the brains, thoughts and ideas from everyone. We stand a better chance then.

So not a negative on the idea, it is an idea and should be explored, I think we just need to tread carefully whenever there is a chance of exclusion.


On the other hand, this system allows anyone with talent to profit from it. There’s a real opportunity here to empower everyone equally. Even more so people living in country that aren’t as rich as ours because the cost of living is an order of magnitude lower. With micro-paywalls, you just gave everyone a nice business model to help them thrive.

And for anyone else who can’t, for some reason, pay for contents, there’s always ways to provide them with enough safecoins through charity to help them pay for it.

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This is huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge and a global internet that works well for all continents and countries can’t be pay-to-view in the slightest

…how (and whyyyyyy) would anyone even think of charging young students in the bush of Kenya for viewing a doc? That is the most anti-S.A.F.E(veryone!!) idea ever…


I didn’t, the guy who uploaded it did.

Would you mind reuploading it without paywall so the children of Kenya can access it for free?

You don’t, cool then, be my guest!

What was the problem again?


What?..,… ====…,…

What I’m trying to say is that the fact that data can be very easely duplicated keeps everyone in checks. If wikipedia were to go full profit and add a paywall to view its content a lot of people would work on duplicating that content to provide it for free.

So if you are annoyed that this guy put a paywall of 0.0005 cents on his latest comic strip and that you can’t bear the thought that the kid in Kenya can’t read it. You can take the joke, copy it and reupload it.

Meanwhile, I would gladly pay the guy 0.0005 cents to help him make a living of his wittiness.

The ability to copy content is the grand equalizer.


Btw, the guy who uploaded the file is actually from Kenya and he’s trying hard to make a living of writing his comic book. So would you mind giving him a break?


As David says, there is nothing stopping people being charitable and releasing their content for free.

There seems to be a contradiction here. On one hand, people are asking for content creators to be paid, but on the other hand they are suggesting that no one should be asked to pay.

Poor people can also provide good content and request payment for it. There is no barrier to payment with safecoin. There is no barrier to publishing with safenet. It is about as free a market that we can get. In such environments, wealth will naturally migrate towards the hard working, talented producers.


There is a problem. Don’t build pay wall into the core architecture even with alternatives because it has the potential to create pay for censorship as in the current publisher or puppet sponsor model. You’re building in a deep tool for manipulation. Find a better way.

Find the decentralized payment culture thread.

But as I think we agree in one form or another it should migrate toward those people who willingly focused their attention.

To me all contradictions fall away when the model has one and exactly one stake holder: The End User. And to me the network would be close to perfect when that is the case and its running on hardned cheap wholley end user controlled and owned hardware free of all ISPs and Sponsors. We are all end users.

Honestly if SAFE can get distributed search up which probably requires distributed computing running on the above element then screw or forget the rest as it will take care of itself. SAFE needs to prioritize Farming because that will build out the physical network (as with bitcoin mining) but not forget its also an end user payment scheme which is the key as with bit coin.

A billion times over the main thing you are creating is the replacement network, that is the key app, focus on it.

This is an example of how piracy can be a very good thing. Everyone keeps complaining about piracy but in point of fact it’s a check to maintain balance in a world where people are trying to hoard data and charge huge amounts of money for it.


Yes its content liberation. Popcorn time plus tips is possibly getting close to the right model. If most of the people in the world weren’t intentionally over a barrel over money so money that money had the power to coerce them to do things, this would hardly be an issue. And when it comes to a true artists they want their work accessed more than anything else.


This makes the most sense. Let the market set the price. It would be nice for a change, to use the internet as a customer instead of being a product.

!!! If you are given something for free you are not the customer you are the product !!!


I’m trying to see the point

I’m glad we are discussing options.

Personally, I never download anything that has a price tag.
Why? Because eventually there will be a free alternative, or a copy of it. All my software, except Windows 7, is legally free.

The expectation of FREE digital content is growing more than we like to admit. If content producers really believe charging for (digital content) can survive this sweeping culture, then I wish them the best.

Unfortunately, I’ve already embraced this FREE digital culture. My one hope is Safecoin will be easier to spend, so I can TIP producers. I don’t see it as paying for the product. I’m expressing my appreciation/opinion for their hard work, making everyone’s life better.

Anyway, this is not an argument against the paywall idea. In fact, I think it makes great economic sense. But times are changing…


Great read as always @DavidMtl.

There’s a lot to be said about convenience vs cost. When you’re allowed to experiment to find the balance - Paywalls and Piracy (now there’s a catchy title) - what you end up with is a healthy marketplace.

EDIT: Have you considered integrating the Pay per “Like” proposal into this? That would bring a reputation aspect to this paywall idea along with income for the network. (I have ideas on how, but wanted to suggest the initial premise first)

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I agree, I think the ability to effortlessly make micropayments already solves the problem(s) of piracy and funding open source development. The required effort to make a small donation using digital payment systems on the current internet is usually not worth the value of the donation in question, so the user doesn’t. Or at least that’s how it works for me in the current situation.

Rather than taking the position that humans are greedy and ungrateful and that that should be solved by rules, I’d much rather see us taking effort to make it easy and rewarding for people to be generous and grateful. The former system implicitly validates greediness and ungratefulness. Why should we better ourselves if our rules and systems already take into account our vices? Why should we donate if the network already rewards the workers through rule-based wealth redistribution?