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BitPass: Micropayment That Seems To Work 180

Omega1045 writes "I have been following the story of BitPass for some time now. The micropayment solution provider has been featured on Slashdot before. That article focused on Scott McCloud, and his comic The Right Number. Since that story, BitPass has added a number of sites using their service. From this netizen, it looks like the idea is really taking off. Some news sources (, have noticed how this micropayment trend has progressed to include well known services like iTunes. I really like the idea of the artist getting a fair cut of the profits at BitPass."
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BitPass: Micropayment That Seems To Work

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  • Still... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UPAAntilles ( 693635 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @04:58PM (#7430045)
    It doesn't fix the fact that most people don't want to pay for internet content in any way, shape or form. Case in point- IGN. Even though that was subscription based, it's complete "collapse" as it were was caused by moving to the pay model. Fileplanet is having the same types of troubles, as their "exclusive" downloads quickly become not so exclusive. People aren't ready to move beyond advertiser supported web content in droves. It's too early.
    • Re:Still... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Muggins the Mad ( 27719 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:08PM (#7430092)
      > It doesn't fix the fact that most people don't want to pay for internet content in any way, shape or form.

      I think it all comes down to whether there are enough people who don't mind paying for good content to support the creators.

      I'm one of them, and while most of the content under BitPass at the moment isn't really my thing, a lot of it's certainly of high quality and well worth paying for.

      And to me, viewing ads *is* paying. In a currency I don't want to spend.

      - MugginsM
      • I think it all comes down to whether there are enough people who don't mind paying for good content to support the creators.

        The opposite is just as important. With the given examples of IGN and Fileplanet, the content simply is not compelling enough for people to subscribe. I can generally find the same info on IGN elsewhere (maybe not the same editorials or previews, but I'm not hardcore enough to care), and I can find other mirrors or torrents of Fileplanet downloads. Without excellent subscriptio

      • Re:Still... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Saeger ( 456549 ) <> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:52PM (#7430484) Homepage
        comes down to whether there are enough people who don't mind paying for good content to support the creators.

        In real life you often get to personally meet those starving artists when you buy their wares or pay for performances; there's a real emotional connection there - not so online (usually). In Real Life you get a feelgood for supporting local artists, and you get a more meaningful "Thank You" when handing over your cash - online it's more antiseptic.

        I would be 100 times more likely to pay for really great online content if:

        1. I was recognized as more than a number (or a /. '*') for my contribution.
        2. I had some idea of the artist's bottom line so I knew how badly they needed it vs. some other artist who's just as worthy but not as arbitrarily popular/rich []. Call it an OpenBottomline, kind of like this []. I don't like sending my money down paypal blackholes.
        3. The content was released under a more open license [] that allows everyone to stand on others' shoulders, rather than the default Disney "AllMineMineMine!" copyright.
        4. If there was some easy mechanism [] to pool my money with others to finance the creation of works we want.


    • Re:Still... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by worm eater ( 697149 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:09PM (#7430099) Homepage
      It will certainly take time for the "internet = free" mentality to pass. Major services like Yahoo are gradually moving previously free services over to subscription models. iTunes (et al) are providing indications that people are willing to pay -- even though iTunes itself doesn't make money for anyone but the record labels, and in some cases, the artists. So yes, it will take a little while, but we'll get to the point where people think about it like television. Some people will pay a premium for the extras (cable) -- and some people will just stick with the standards (broadcast networks).

      BitPass has a nice model in that they offer a wide range of options. You can charge for specific content, charge for subscriptions to changing content, or just take donations. If they play their cards right, they'll be the next PayPal.
      • Re:Still... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by UPAAntilles ( 693635 )
        The problem with comparing this to iTunes is that you're getting music out of it...not internet content, they are 2 very different things. The other problem is if we move to a "cable" way of paying things we get "content networks" like...say...IGN
      • I'm still dumbfounded as to why everyone things that the "internet = free" mentality *should* pass.

        I may not create as much content as I really want to, but I still do. And I see no reason to impose some kind of charge on it. The internet needs billions of people giving away a little bit for free, not 10,000 *rock stars* creating mindless consumer garbage that can be tied into marketing Pepsi or Nike.

        The attitude that it shouldn't be free, is part of a long term strategy to steamroll over free developers/
        • Re:Still... (Score:4, Funny)

          by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @08:49PM (#7431027) Homepage
          Go to a corner store. Look in the fridge. They're selling water. Desert not required.
        • I too provide free content on the internet (see my web site []), but I don't think that that is the only way to do it. For me, and the artists I work with, it makes a lot of sense: we work on projects with almost zero overhead. Everything can be written, recorded, designed by a few people working in the evenings / weekends. But some artists and content providers work on huge projects that require huge amounts of time and money to complete -- and there is no way to realize these kinds of projects without com
    • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:10PM (#7430103)
      If there is chasm of quality between paid content and free content (like national subventioned tv and cable tv where I live) then people will go for the highiest quality because they have the feeling they get something for their money (I take the tv example as it is what comes as near in mater of content as of web). But if somebody is Offering the same or equivalent conent at same or acceptably same quality then people will not go to pay for service. This is especially true if the free content is in a greater mass than paid content.

      The tendence might invert itself. But it will take a lot of time. And I even think maybe never because they will always be a drove of talended people making something for free.
      • NO
        stop comparing tv and the internet
        it is NOT the same
        it is quite difficult for the average joe to produce tv content for the masses
        it is trivial to produce web content
        there will always be the openinfo/opensource mentality people who will provide reasonable content for free, for the love of it.
        for a premium service to survive it has got to be VERY premium
        itunes is not a webservice or internet service
        its a music store
        its selling music
        over the internet
        like amazonsells books
      • But if somebody is Offering the same or equivalent conent at same or acceptably same quality then people will not go to pay for service.

        The key phrase there is "the same or equivalent content" -- in other words, commoditized content.

        It is loosely true that a market tends to push the price of a commodity towards its marginal cost, which is nearly zero in the case of digital information. The trick is that not all art is a commodity. Some is, to be sure -- does the public really care which boy / boob band
    • You are talking about teenagers and college students. The teenager or the college student has the most free time yet the least amount of money so they surf the web and use the net all day because they have no job, duh. Now to the few who do have a job, they will most likely only visit just a few sites and these people already use Itunes. Last problem is, we dont have a major problem with paying for content. When the economy was good advertisements paid for content, when the economy picks up ads will pay
    • Re:Still... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by znu ( 31198 ) <> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:26PM (#7430161)
      I really don't think it's just a matter of "too soon". The whole idea of micropayments is probably doomed. This [] presents the case far better than I could.

      The most important point, IMO, is that there are cognitive costs associated with the decision about whether or not to make a purchase that don't go away as dollar amounts decrease.
      • > The most important point, IMO, is that there are cognitive costs associated with the decision about whether or not to make a purchase that don't go away as dollar amounts decrease.

        Which is a good argument, IMHO. However, aren't there very similar costs in viewing an advert?

        - MugginsM
        • Which is a good argument, IMHO. However, aren't there very similar costs in viewing an advert?

          I doubt it. You don't choose whether or not you see an advertisement, they are always just there and you learn to ignore them or you are forced to sit through it. There is no decision made on you're part.

          There is a similiar cost in situations where you are forced to click on X number of banner ads to get where you want, but look at how popular that situation is. It's basically limited to warez and pr0n sites.

    • "People aren't ready to move beyond advertiser supported web content in droves. It's too early."

      Too early? I think it's too greedy.
    • Re:Still... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FreekyGeek ( 19819 ) <`thinkstoomuch' `at' `'> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:48PM (#7430233)
      I don't think it's that people don't want to pay, they just don't want to pay for content they don't use. It's *subscriptions* that don't work, not payment in gereal. I'm happy to pay for an article I want to read, but that doesn't mean I want to have a permanent subscription of $x/month. Those can really add up.

      Personally, I don't mind at all paying for stuff on an "a la carte" basis. But, just like regular shopping, I want to walk into the store, pick out the thing I want, and buy just that.

      I'm betting that, as usual, the first industry to take advantage of a working, widespread micropayment system will be the porn industry.
    • When will humanity evolve to the point where they'd rather pay than get it for free?
      • When will humanity evolve to the point where they'd rather pay than get it for free?

        It'll be the same day humanity evolves to the point where they have no need for money.
    • Re:Still... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:43PM (#7430444) Journal
      Supply and demand. Fileplanet can only afford so much bandwidth to free downloaders. Unfortunately for them, people like me, who hate being forced to turn on Javascript so they can push ads, and who don't want to wait for overloaded servers to queue up our downloads, can now use bittorrents for the more popular items.

      I resorted to using a torrent to get the 2.0 patch for America's Army, and I'm a believer now. I downloaded the 200+ megs in about 2 hours, and left the connection on all night to help out other downloaders. By the next day, I had served out 2gb on my torrent connection for AA before shutting it down. I'd rather "pay" using my bandwidth to serve other people, and get very fast service and good d/l rate, than have to sacrifice my personal information just to feed some marketers. Sorry guys.
    • Re:Still... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @07:22PM (#7430607) Homepage Journal
      People don't want to pay to browse a site; HTML and HTTP just aren't very good if there are costs associated with them. People complain about needing subscriptions even when those subscriptions are entirely free, just because the subscription mechanism interrupts their access to information. They can't necessarily post links and cite the work or get at it from a different computer seemlessly.

      On the other hand, people are perfectly willing to buy things over the web (consider Amazon or eBay), and they even seem willing to buy things over the web which will be delivered to them over the web (consider Magnatune).

      I think that payments will prove to work fine for items which can be tried in advance or returned, and which are not part of the normal interaction with the site. And purchases depend exclusively on the good will of the purchaser; the content will be available elsewhere, and making it less convenient to get from the original source just reduces the chance that people will spend money on the original site.

      Ironically, I think that the best model is to give away your content in a neatly indexed fashion on your site, and allow people to pay their choice of price to download exactly the same content in a zip file. Document who gets the money. People operate both as donors and as consumers, but not really both at the same time. On the web, it's hard to engage people as consumers (unless you promise to send them physical objects), so your best bet is to hook them as donors.
    • Re:Still... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @07:49PM (#7430738)
      It doesn't fix the fact that most people don't want to pay for internet content in any way, shape or form.

      People are totally willing to pay for internet content. See all these consumers who put down $40, $50, even $70 monthly for high-speed connections?

      They wouldn't spend like that unless they desired internet content enough to give money for it. They only problem is that today they give this money to ISPs, not content-creators. Viewers are willing to pay for content; they're just not willing to buy content. If the cumbersome, distracting, and insecure process of paying for a website were removed, readers would have no problem forking over some cash. Removing those procedural obstacles is the quest of every micropayment project.

      I'd be happy to give slashdot $0.02 per page I read, which would cover their bandwidth and then some. (Typical rate for one banner impression is much, much less than a penny. But few readers would hestitate to give $0.01 to read a good page. The time it'd take to transfer that money traditionally is more valuable than the cash itself)

      PS. Part of the reason so many people feel guiltless about collecting MP3s off P2P is that they are paying for them already. File-sharing is an expensive hobby. They just pay Comcast and Dell instead of the RIAA.
    • I subscribe [] to Linux Weekly News [] and have done so since they started offering. Subscriptions saved them from closing. I'm not sure what the status is, but they aren't exactly earning loads of money, but so far they have survived which is very cool since (IMHO) it's the absolute best Linux news site.
  • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:03PM (#7430073) Journal
    "For items priced $0.01-$5.00, the transaction fee is 15%."

    15%! Are they crazy?
    • 15% of a THAT's a micropayment.
    • by cgranade ( 702534 ) <> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:15PM (#7430124) Homepage Journal
      Uh... no. 15% is very fair, as compared to $500/mo. account fees, $0.07/transaction, and 3.5% fees. Really, when you look at it, for a one-cent fee, paying $0.07 per transaction is f***ing insane, so I appriciate the reduced fees.
      • Uh... no. 15% is very fair, as compared to $500/mo. account fees, $0.07/transaction, and 3.5% fees. Really, when you look at it, for a one-cent fee, paying $0.07 per transaction is f***ing insane, so I appriciate the reduced fees.

        I can get a flat rate at $0.30 a transaction, with a $60 monthly fee if I provide my own merchant account. What the hell providor are you using?
        • and if you go with something as mainstream as PayPal, their fees are.. 2.2%+ $0.30 USD per transaction. Send $1 with paypal, the seller receives more of the money than they would with BitPass.

          I think the whole point of all micropayments is that they work out cheaper for very small payments, but when $2 at BitPass rates is $0.30, and PayPal is $0.35, its looking like you want to use BitPass only for *really* small transaction costs, but when the difference is so small, you might as well give out more for $5
      • $500/mo. account fees, $0.07/transaction, and 3.5% fees

        What in the HELL are you talking about? This is by far the most expensive CC processing service that I have EVER heard of. That's not even in the ballpark of reality. REAL CC merchant accounts (and yes, I have one) cost about $0.00/transaction + 3.5% to about $0.06/transaction + 2.5% with no monthly fees.
        • Hey, reply and let me know where you found those. After hunting around to replace the POS terminal where we work ($80/mo "rent"+$20/mo insurance+% depending on card type but around 2.5%) with a computer and a CC "wedge" we could only find ones like with a monthly charge, plus % of each transaction.
          • Hell... any of them. I get offers every day. My rates are even a bit high because I'm locked into one merchant account vendor because I have a special POS terminal. I pay 2.45% + $0.05/transaction for Visa/MC, and I think 1.5% for Discover and I think around 3% for Amex. (I don't have my statements in front of me right now). Either way, there are tons and tons of places that are cheaper, too. I just turned down one guy who was cheaper because it wouldn't integrate in with my POS stations. Take a look
      • Hmm, the I get it about 20c a transaction although I must admit it took me almost a year to find it :-) That being said it's still a pain to type in all the information for a 50c transaction which was the main point of micropayments - convience.
    • If you have alot of money you already do pay for information, and if you go to or the internet its usually because you dont have the money to subscribe to the magazine, buy the expensive books or afford the satelite tv services. Most people using the net are college students and teenagers and in the current economy these groups of people have no jobs. I'm making $8 an hour and you expect me to pay for the internet? Go to hell.
    • Tell me, can you complete a transaction for 0,01$*15& = 0,0015$? Just the machinery, bandwidth, disk space, CPU time (hell, even electricity bill) will eat that up.

      There's a reason most charge a minimum fee which are orders of magnitude higher. Personally, I can't see how this could be profitable at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    can be found at

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You really don't know the true scale of business in this country, do you?

    All micropayments this year don't equal what Warren Buffet loses in the wash each week.
  • Something on topic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omega1045 ( 584264 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:13PM (#7430117)
    Since the moderators, instead of simply leaving some happy comments alone are nailing me, I will add something very much on-topic.

    I think "home grown" service like BitPass are just the key for up and coming artists. Offering a service at such a small amount of money is very marketable. This is possible for the artist because the they gets such a large portion of that take. On an average CD, the artist makes much less than a dollar. That is a very small percentage @ $12 to $15 for a new cd!

    Imagine a YOUNG Metallica level artist on their way up. Instead of using traditional means, they offer their LP at $2, on BitPass via MP3. They make much more per album than they would through traditional means. They don't have to sell near as many albums to be a huge financial success, and continue to make their music or whatever.

    Sounds like success to me! I can think of a few local bands that I wish were still around, but simply could not afford it. A succesful BitPass style service could have really helped them!
    • Not that i agree with the amount the *IAA takes from bands, but please remember that part of a bands success is tied to marketing.

      If you have never heard of a band, and cant beaucse they arent marketed beyond their town, what difference does it make if they get more % back on an album.

      There IS a cost to market, and the bands cant do it on their own when they first start out..

      Micropayments wont help that a bit.

      But like i said above, taking 99% of the money fronted and claiming it was 'for marketing purpo
      • nurb,

        These are really good points. I agree with your point. Record companies and their expertise in marketing new artists have a big influence on the success or failure of the artist.

        However, I think that an artist could hire a marketing firm on their own, or do less traditional marketing. Look at the success of the Blair Witch project. Much of their hype started from their web site. I think there will be other ways to get "big" in the future, than going through the Nazis at the RIAA.

        And the real po
      • But the internet is not just a cheap medium for transferring music; it is also a cheap medium for advertisement. AND it is a global medium. The town barrier is completely broken. Micro payment might just be the missing link in the chain to make music a balanced and reasonable industry unlike the way it is now.

        And I'm sure if this commercial model takes place there will be web sites dedicated to finding new interesting music, make reviews etc. There are already sites that promote all kind of products this
    • First, i assume by YOUNG Metallica level artist you mean a band that is quite good at giving a large percentage of the public what it wants and therefore has the potential to sell lots of albums.

      But how are they going to sell millions of albums? The major labels provide one avenue. The labels will select a few groups from the thousands with a suitable level of talent, a marketable signature, and a strong desire to be famous. They will then market the group strongly, placing them above other groups with

  • by Trillian_1138 ( 221423 ) <slashdot&fridaythang,com> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:14PM (#7430120)
    Penny Arcade responded [] to Scott McCloud's origonal comic on micropayments. They didn't quite agree with him.


    • by melquiades ( 314628 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @08:04PM (#7430799) Homepage
      That was a funny PA -- quite clever, if you've read Reinventing Comics. However, I think Gabe & Tycho made real asses out of themselves in the accompanying commentary. They responded to McCloud's optimistic (if starry-eyed) willingness to imagine a bright future for cartooning and put out creative new ideas by basically, as he put it, kicking him in the teeth.

      G&T are hilarious, but heavens, they do shoot their arrogant little mouths off sometimes. Micropayments may not work, and Scott McCloud may not be right about everything (or even anything), but (1) as a hard-working veteran artist who was drawing comics when the PA crew was in diapers, he deserved more respect than they gave him, (2) as a veteran embracing change, a creative mind trying to test out new, risky ideas, he deserved more respect than they gave him, and (3) as somebody who is -- hello! -- trying to figure how they can make a living from their craft, he deserved one heck of a lot more respect than they gave him.

      They ended up eating a bit of crow over that comic -- mostly because McCloud himself responded by being persistently civil to them until they realized what a couple of assholes they were. But they did realize, and came back with the kind of civility their satire ought to have carrier from the beginning. Tycho: "Reader response to Friday's thingy was profoundly, powerfully negative (Which Scott even apologized for - can you believe that?) ... Your responses were deft and had the weight of punishment, and I feel as though I have been taught a valuable lesson by a bloom of aluminum baseball bats. At the root of it, I misjudged the man. For his part, he says that he has not made himself as aware as he should of the way online comics are progressing - and the ways they are endeavoring to support themselves. ... My conversation with Scott was fascinating, and clarified many, many issues."
  • Where does it end? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:18PM (#7430136)
    I can't believe micro-payments will ever catch on. Will we all be teased with only first 2 sentences of an article, and then have to cough up $0.02 for the rest? $0.01 for the first 10 search results, and $0.01 for every 100 results after that? $0.01 to view the FAQ section of technicial support, $0.02 to search the FAQ for a keyword. Hell I could rack up a $50 tab in an hour of surfing.
    • But what if you could earn micropayments yourself by adding to the websites you visit. IE, on /. you might earn premium pageviews for high moderation. On eBay you might earn listing fee credit or some of their eBay Points if both parties use Paypal and post positive feedback.

      I honestly think this will be incentive some day for the small voice to be heard and the small journalistic/news sites to make some server/staff support money.

      I actually think that Micropayments should be very small 1 and 2 cents and
    • And what about the possabilities for fraud? You are teased with some form of header that you are intrested in and then go on to click though the artical. Meanwhile the "micropayment" has gone from $0.01 per click to $0.50 with micro-fine print at the bottom of the page informing of you so. (Or none at all.)

      Next thing you know your paying out the nose for something that once was free. (Ad supported.)

      The idea of micropayments is nice in theory but there are many pitfalls that must be fleshed out before
    • Dude, that's 5,000 FAQ's an hour! You must have a helluva lot of unanswered questions ;)
    • And this is exactly why it won't work. Content on the internet is even less reliable than content in the real world. You don't know what is going on to determine search results, and you don't know if they could put the one you want as 101 just to make you pay more. This isn't the real world where you can pick a product off the shelf and look at it.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:23PM (#7430153)

    We initially volunteered for the trial, but didn't bother once we heard of the terms- basically, 15%, same as paypal. Our users would have objected to keeping a balance they couldn't use anywhere else. Worse, we'd loose ANOTHER 15% because they(at the time) only supported PayPal for transferring funds. Worse, they only do the transfer when it gets to a certain size. Micropayments, macrotransfers, mean that not only are they ripping you a new one on the 15% fee, but they're ALSO getting your interest.

    Call me silly and slap me stupid, but the point of micropayments was to make small payments economically viable. I don't call "three times a credit card processing fee" viable for what amounts to nothing more than a proxy service.

    All Bitpass does is play "mini paypal", and that's neither original nor novel. Next, please. That technology involving random numbers+statistics looked far more promising....

    • Next, please. That technology involving random numbers+statistics looked far more promising....

      Do you mean Hashcash []? Keep in mind it does not provide any monetary or reusable value to those that accept Hashcash, it only proves that a "purchaser" has spent an amount of time doing CPU work. The purpose is to artificially increase scarcity of a service, not to compensate service providers. Useful, but a completely different purpose than BitPass.

  • This is not new! (Score:3, Informative)

    by DeathBunnyRanger ( 640362 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:27PM (#7430167)
    Company called has been a micropayment provider for over 3 years. they payout 80%, I don't know how bitpay can do 15% commission. chargebacks are a bitch, and credit companies want something like 5% on all non tangleable internet transactions, including server uptime etc. oh well, I have been using Bee-Tokens for a while, works for my photographs.
  • Kind of Pricey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:28PM (#7430174) Homepage
    For items priced $0.01-$5.00, the transaction fee is 15%.
    For items priced $5.00 and higher, the transaction fee is 5% + $0.50.

    15% is one helluva chunk to take for being the clearinghouse for micropayments, and the over $5 fee is roughly twice what you'd pay through a US commercial gateway.
    • Paypal is 2.2% + $0.30 USD to 2.9% + $0.30 USD. The higher rate is for foreign transactions.

      Unless you have a personal account in which case it's free (but you can't take credit card payments). The only way BitPass beats PayPal is under $2.35 for a transaction. For a $5 transaction I pay about 41 cents to PayPal where I'd be charged 75 cents for BitPass.

      I don't like micropayments and although I could save all of 19 cents in fees per $1 account, there's no way I'm going to use two on-line payment compan
  • Where's Visa? (Score:4, Informative)

    by kognate ( 322256 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:51PM (#7430242)
    What I don't understand is how these companies can even exist? The credit card industry (in the US anyway) has been building itself up for years and years.

    What I'm trying to ask is a two part question

    1) These services are going to have to go through the same growth problems all new financial services go through. Not all new financial servers are viable economically, and it's possible that micropayments are not viable.

    2) Why doesn't AMEX or Visa offer some sort of micropayment system? They've already got the basics for one right now: it's pervasive, easy to use, familer, and cost effective for many transactions. You just add an aggregator account for micropayments along with a dab of crypto and there you go: instant micropayments.[1]


    [1] the aggregator account would work like a till. Each micropayment get's tagged and signed by the payee's pubkey. At the end of the month, everybody get's paid and billed, just like they do now. The user can manage their micropayment wallet by adding/removing cash/credit (that way you can't just rob someone blind). The merchent get's the % taken out of the total of the aggregated account for processing fees. You could even use this on vending machines, cardswipe+pin and the charges get aggregated daily instead of monthly (all cryptocash emptied from this machine daily).
    • I can't say where Visa are but from my limited experience working for American Express I can see where my employers are at. The nearest thing approaching micropayments is ExpressPay [] which is more like the Exxon/Mobil SpeedPass []. The Amex system to my knowledge is considered to be in trial status, mainly around Phoenix, AZ, at this time

      To my knowledge there isn't any thing else in development. But if American Express at the corporate level were to see value in micropayments and that it would prove useful
    • 2) Why doesn't AMEX or Visa offer some sort of micropayment system? They've already got the basics for one right now: it's pervasive, easy to use, familer, and cost effective for many transactions. You just add an aggregator account for micropayments along with a dab of crypto and there you go: instant micropayments.[1]

      Why it's that easy, just slap some aggregator here with a dab of crypto there, and a little magic sprinkle here, a handwave there, and presto, instant micropayment architecture. Simple.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:54PM (#7430246) Homepage
    BitPass has a prominent "Certified by Entrust" logo on their web site. It means very little. Read their certification practices statement [], which guarantees almost nothing, disclaims liability for almost all cases, limits liability to $1000 per certificate (i.e. everybody scammed by one site), and even calls for the "relying party" (the customer) to indemnify Entrust.

    This is even weaker than Verisign's lower class of SSL certificate. Verisign at least requires a Dun and Bradstreet number.

    There are far better seal programs, such as the classic Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval []. That's an actual warranty. "If a product bearing the Seal proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the product or refund the purchase price." "Entrust" doesn't come anywhere near that.

    Then there's the question of whether BitPass is a payment service or a reseller. iBill, for example, is a reseller. When you buy something through iBill, the actual "merchant" is iBill, and if you want a refund, you can get it through iBill's customer service operation. Getting it back from the site operator is iBill's problem, which is why they take a big cut and hold back payments for weeks.

    BitPass doesn't seem to be set up that way. BitPass is, in a sense, "selling money" That may create problems. Credit card issuers don't allow merchants to "sell money"; that's a loan, which comes under banking laws. Also, the U.S. Government has a monopoly on money. Casinos in Las Vegas used to take each other's chips, but that was ruled to be a "currency" years ago, and they had to stop.

    Worse, the BitPass site does not disclose the name and address of the business before asking for a credit card number. They've set things up so it's hard to get a refund. They don't disclose their refund policy. That's a criminal offense in California (B&P code 17538) [], where BitPass apparently is located. That's good for six months in jail. Here's the law, which is very specific, so sleazy operators can't hide the required info and claim they comply.

    • (d) A vendor conducting business through the Internet or any other electronic means of communication shall do all of the following when the transaction involves a buyer located in this state:

      (1) Before accepting any payment or processing any debit or credit charge or funds transfer, the vendor shall disclose to the buyer in writing or by electronic means of communication, such as e-mail or an on-screen notice, the vendor's return and refund policy, the legal name under which the business is conducted and, except as provided in paragraph (3), the complete street address from which the business is actually conducted.

      (2) If the disclosure of the vendor's legal name and address information required by this subdivision is made by on-screen notice, all of the following shall apply:

      (A) The disclosure of the legal name and address information shall appear on any of the following: (i) the first screen displayed when the vendor's electronic site is accessed, (ii) on the screen on which goods or services are first offered, (iii) on the screen on which a buyer may place the order for goods or services, (iv) on the screen on which the buyer may enter payment information, such as a credit card account number, or (v) for nonbrowser-based technologies, in a manner that gives the user a reasonable opportunity to review that information. The communication of that disclosure shall not be structured to be smaller or less legible than the text of the offer of the goods or services.

      (3) The complete street address need not be disclosed as required by paragraph (1) if the vendor utilizes

  • by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:55PM (#7430249)
    Instead of the micropayment route, I've always preferred the idea of paying one monthly fee then getting unlimited content for that fee. It's like those "adult passes". You pay them a monthly fee, then when you visit a member page, they pay the page for you.

    With a pay-per-view thing, I'd always be asking myself "do I REALLY want to see this, or can I live without it?" and end up missing a lot of stuff.
  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @05:55PM (#7430251) Homepage Journal
    Clay Shirky, the undisputed king of thinkers about the Internet (well, almost) says micropayment systems are doomed in a paper he wrote a couple of months back [].

    I have to say I agree with him on this. He makes several very good points about micropayments, free content, and how the Internet shifts the balance of power from publishers to consumers.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Some news sources (, have noticed how this micropayment trend has progressed to include well known services like iTunes.

    Funny, I didn't seem to notice being able to pay with Bitpass on iTunes.

  • How about Wallie? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pflipp ( 130638 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:00PM (#7430263)
    I was surprised that this never got discussed on /., but there is a *very active* campaign going on in Holland to promote pre-paid cards for use on the Internet. It's called wallie [], and at least we are interested to use it on our little web sale project.
    • I know Wallie, I see the posters when I walk across the street.
      Wallie makes it easy to purchase little things under 50 euro's, depending on which Wallie-card you buy.
      But you have to buy Wallie in a store. So it will be something like:
      "what a cool CD, I am going to get me that right now with wallie"
      "oops... my wallie only has 20 euro's, the cd costs 21 euro's"
      "oops... it's 10 pm... and its sunday... no more stores to buy new wallie"

      Wallie was born out of safety concerns, not out of ease-of-use. You would
    • The Wallie card looks very interesting - along the lines of the pre-paid phone cards, and available in the same places - corner stores, gas stations, etc.

      It appears to fulfil the basic requirement (in my opinion) of any micropayment system: anonymity. I don't want records kept of every little purchase I make - a horrible idea.

      Only quibble: who's behind it?

  • Credit cards... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kassiopeia ( 671060 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:05PM (#7430277)

    I'm seventeen. I wouldn't mind paying for stuff if its good, but there's always one thing I run into that I can't do anything about. I'm underaged, so I can't get a credit card. Internet payments would be its only use, so getting one to the family wouldn't be meaningful either. And when I become a poor student, no bank in their right mind will want to give me one either. Nor am I sure I want to even get one, with the trail it leaves behind.

    Add to that that I'm not from the United States, and it all amounts to just too much trouble to go through for the possible benefits and warm-and-fuzzy-feeling. What I'd like to see are some sort of bitpass cards that anyone can buy from a store. Before that happens, micropayments won't work on that meaningfully. Internet users under eighteen aren't that far and inbetween, although I admit that most just play CS and no little else. :)

    • Re:Credit cards... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) *
      Most banks offer debit cards with credit backing now. You can use the card as if it were a credit card without any charges. The money comes out of your checking account instead of a credit company's coffers. If you're serious about paying for things online these sorts of debit cards are readily available, even when you're underage.
    • Here in the USA you can get gift cards which are VISA cards, and have only the vendor's name on them. They're prepaid. Simon Properties offers them at several malls in the US. They are the perfect anonymous payment.
    • Re:Credit cards... (Score:3, Informative)

      by mandalayx ( 674042 ) *
      I'm seventeen. I wouldn't mind paying for stuff if its good, but there's always one thing I run into that I can't do anything about. I'm underaged, so I can't get a credit card. Internet payments would be its only use, so getting one to the family wouldn't be meaningful either. And when I become a poor student, no bank in their right mind will want to give me one either. Nor am I sure I want to even get one, with the trail it leaves behind.

      Actually, it's really easy to get a VISA. You can get a checking a
  • Pay what it's worth (Score:3, Informative)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <(ten.remlaPyrogerGniloC) (ta) (PGC)> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:08PM (#7430289) Homepage
    What about the 'pay what you think it's worth' model. That's what I use on my London Blog []. If people like my writing and want to help pay my school bills then they can drop a pound or two. This way everyone is happy, those who want free content can get it, and every once in a while I get some support from the people who enjoy my work the most.
    • whenever I go to a big shopping mall, I see people making music. They work according to the same model, even though they are not really earning much by it, and even though they use a hat-way instead of a BitPass way to get money. Some people are really interested in the music they make, and throw in some money.
      There are people who, however, rather would like that only the stores were there in the mall. These people call in the local mall-security or the law-enforcement people, who make sure they are thrown
  • Plain and Simple... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danielrm26 ( 567852 ) * on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:16PM (#7430314) Homepage
    There is a culture of ignorance among regular users that dictates that anything that costs money on the Internet is some sort of scam, so they avoid most of them. Not only that, but many are still very nervous about moving money online.

    Among the geeks, however, many still think that actually *buying* things online makes you some sort of sellout. I have been made fun of before for buying shareware - since the person making fun of me had the same software but didn't have to pay $29.99 for it.

    Until both groups (standard users and geeks) come to accept that it is quite ok to spend money for something online, we are going to continue to see resistance to these sorts of services.

    • If people are so reluctant to buy things online, then why is ebay so popular? And could you explain how every geek in the world uses pricewatch? You didn't get made fun of for buying something online, you got made fun of for paying for something you could have avoided.
      • Ah yes, I should have been more clear. When I say that people are reluctant to buy things online, what I mean is that they are reluctant to do so when they can get the same thing for free, or, at least they think the should be able to - eg. my shareware story.

        This brings me to my main point, which is that until this mentality is eliminated, services like BitPass will face major resistance.

  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Sunday November 09, 2003 @06:21PM (#7430339) Journal
    Small sites usually do not control their own webservers and are hosted along with other sites.
    What BitPass is asking is to install a 'gateway' [] to allow their service to work. They claim the service will thus work in 30 minutes []. In the majority of cases, with small sites, there will however be extra hassle because of the way BitPass has to be installed.
    It could even be impossible to install BitPass on cohosted sites, who knows ?

    Ofcourse it's still a beta, but they got to do better than that...

  • micropayment has to include the ISP providers too in some form or another; why pay extra for stuff on the internet when you're already paying for an ISP.

    i think it's in the hands of ISPs or someone to sort out a deal with them, so that people pay for the content they use through their ISP bill... that may entice people if there's a chance that the bill for some of them might be less than they already pay.

    However, a major problem with that might happen to be privacy. Your ISP will have a list of sites
  • by Belgand ( 14099 ) <.moc.ssertroftenalp. .ta. .dnagleb.> on Sunday November 09, 2003 @07:00PM (#7430525) Homepage
    I recall when eSheep posted the new installment of Apocamon there was some small fee to access it tied to BitPass. The problem was that the cost to access the material was rather small, about $0.25 (a bit large for something I'll only have limited, temporary access to, but that's not the point here) however the user was required to make a minimum purchase of a $3 "virtual cash-card" from BitPass just to be able to spend that $0.25. Rather than functioning like PayPal where any amount can be sent and pulled back to your bank account BitPass requires you to toss in a set amount. Can't find someplace else to spend you $2.75? Well, looks like you just paid $3.00 (The current going rate for a comic book with 22 pages of story) for an online comic you have no physical access to and will lose the ability to read after 666 times or 30 days, whichever comes first.

    The way that BitPass operates is thus the biggest problem here. As much as I chafe at having to purchase the latest installment (great, get me hooked on something free then wait forever to continue it and start charging) and the micropayments idea in general having my money locked up by one company is a problem. Even if there were multiple places accepting BitPass it would still be a bad idea unless they had a clear monopoly. Regardless of whether micropayments are good or bad, BitPass is a terrible implementation.
  • Logic & Viability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LiquidFun ( 674238 )
    A short, but interesting read on the:

    Logic & Viability of Micropayments
  • I don't really have enough time to get into the whole 'micropayments suck' flamewars, but since I have BitPass content I figure I should say something.

    Will people pay with micropayments? The word 'micropayment' itself is so stupid, that I can't believe it really exists. People will inevitably buy stuff on the internet for less than a $1. Everyone will laugh that people even bothered arguing about 'micropayments'.

    Do I need statistics? Do I need statistics to notice that my atypical 12-year old sister uses
    • One or two are as good as you are (asuming you are any good to begin with) and then you realize that you have put an artificial barrier of entry for people to have access to your work.

      What is going to work IMHO is to cultivate the loyalty of a small close circle of followers that will be convinced to help once in a while to donate (not pay, donate) in order to allow you to continue providing free content for free.

      Say you are charging and you'll be doomed.
  • .. in france ..

    you may have heard about the minitel, some sort of videotext terminal that iss distributed for free.. its nominal speed is 1200/75 bits/s, but you now have faster ways to access it. anyway it was sufficient for its semi-graphic interface.

    the main use of the minitel was to connect to some "kiosk" and then type the name of the service you want to access. you don't have to subscribe, eventually you do not pay the services directly. you are billed by the operator (france telecom) according to

  • BitPass works (Score:2, Insightful)

    I've been using BitPass to sell a number of things:

    1. My feature film, "Nothing So Strange." []
    2. Open-source clips [] from that film.
    3. Songs from "Bat Boy: The Musical." []
    4. My play, "Fair & Balanced." []

    With regard to some questions and comments here about BitPass:

    --Ease of use. I didn't install the gateway, but I do most of the listing and configuring the pages to work with BitPass myself. I'm not much of a techie at all (which is why my hands are trembling slightly as I post on Slashdot) and I fou

  • Buy an add....

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun