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[Alms for the Poor Ol' Webmaster?]

February 16, 2001 By Dave Kristula
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The idea for a system like this one is not completely new. There has been significant interest...for years, but a viable system for implementation has never really come about, until now.

Amazon.com recently unveiled a new program called The Amazon Honor System. Webmasters who choose to sign up for this free program can ask visitors to their web site to give a voluntary contribution, directly through their Amazon.com account (if they are one of Amazon.com's 29 million customers). Is this the beginning of online begging?

The idea for a system like this one is not completely new. There has been significant interest in an online technique called "micropayments" for years, but a viable system for implementation has never really come about, until now.

The W3C has already put a lot of effort into coming up with a standard for micropayments. (See W3 Micropayments site.) But the concepts are a little bit different. With the Amazon Honor System, the user must click-through a graphic or link to a specially set-up page for the web site, enter their password and choose a credit card (unless they have 1-Click ordering turned on) and click submit. With the W3C specifications for micropayments, the goal is to make even the smallest payments available almost automatically (request embedded in the web page), perhaps a half cent or a cent (or more) per page view loaded by a visitor, so that the user doesn't have to mess around with any other account, and their browsing isn't interrupted significantly.

The Amazon Honor System has five major downsides (in my opinion):

  • The minimum payment is $1 and the maximum payment is currently $50. Amazon.com also takes 15 cents per charge, plus 15% of the purchase amount. So on a mere $5 payment provided by a visitor, you as a webmaster end up with only $4.10.
  • Users must have a registered Amazon.com account, and if they don't, they have to sign up for one if they want to make a payment.
  • Webmasters are not compensated under the current model (as of February 16, 2001) if the visitor trails from the Honor System page to other parts of the site (i.e. free advertising for Amazon.com)
  • The user can choose to take back their money for up to thirty days after the purchase.

Regardless, the Amazon Honor System is a step in the right direction for allowing webmasters and content providers due compensation for their work (considering the advertising industry is very unpredictable).

Feel free to send a dollar or more my way! C'mon, what could it hurt?


Dave Kristula is the editor of SLASH Magazine.  He has a history
of begging, but rarely for cold hard cash.  "It just doesn't pay
what it used to."
He can be reached at themag.editor@davesite.com.
RELATED LINKS

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

Amazon.com

W3C Micropayments

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