What the Internet needs is a 5 cent payment system.
When the Internet began, it was a national defense strategy to decentralize communication and/or means for scientific research to be shared among academic institutions. One day in his basement, Al Gore decided that the Information Superhighway could also help America's schoolchildren compete in the world.
There was a great hubbub as to whether it should be allowed to be a commercial medium (offering advertising and selling things). It was thought this would water down or pollute the purity of this form of communication.
[flashback] When I was growing up, one of the great fears was "Pay TV," along with nuclear annihilation from Russia.
We thought in the future, TV would not be freely broadcast over amber waves from sea to shining sea ('the way God intended' the implied end of the sentence). It was suggested special events like the Super Bowl would require a fee to be watched. It was hinted, according to the domino theory of the day, that eventually we would have no free TV programming. The proponents promised TV broadcasts without commercials. The opponents envisioned pay TV that had commercials anyway.
In the 70's and 80's, the pioneer of pay TV was Ted Turner. It was said at the time that on the Turner Broadcasting System channel, you could watch Gilligan's Island or I Love Lucy reruns 24 hours a day. An all sports channel called ESPN broadcast field hockey, softball, and something called Australian rules football (kind of like rugby and soccer and kicking the ball through a goal post rolled into one mutant sport).
The number of channels allowed channels to compete for a specialized fragment of audience. Ted Turner invented not one but two full-time news channels (when TV news was a half-hour around 6 p.m.). Who would watch news all day?
I'm told there is not only a fishing channel, but also a bass fishing channel. If I were selling sonar fish finders, I'd rather have Championship Bass Fishing viewers watch my commercials.
[back to the present] Now, decades later, almost everyone I know has cable TV or satellite TV. We pay $40, $60, or more per month. It's the norm. In a way, paying for TV has replaced free TV.
Credit card payments over the Internet are fraught with danger. Even established and well-known companies can expose customers' personal data. Even protected sites can be exploited by hackers logging keystrokes on the client computers. Bogus emails and phony sites have been countered recently by Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, but there will certainly be exploits using new tactics in the future.
Yes, there have been many proposed micro-payment systems. PayPal is one standard. This might be my bias, but I didn't like using it however convenient it was when I had a credit card number with its available balance ready to be charged at any time by someone who could trick me into confirming my password with an urgent sounding e-mail. I never could tell when it was truly PayPal e-mailing me and when it was some phisher.
Will Microsoft points become the standard? The beauty of it is that it is currency-independent. 79 points may be $.99 in the United States or 600 lire in Italy or ¥43 in Japan without localizing the payment system on a web site.
Advertising is great for sites that have a predictable audience. Google AdSense is a clever income producer requiring no human intervention after the initial set-up. Nobody has to pick out what ads go with what content.
But aside from advertising, I can't help thinking that if I have some clever ideas for instructional videos that people would enjoy seeing, many searching for that specific information would be willing to pay a nickel to view some tip or technique I'd publish. And if some rating system indicated that people felt they got their nickel's worth, others would be inclined to view the content also. There are many sites I'd pay a nickel or a dime each month to subscribe to, even with some ads.
I'm going to write down some ideas of nifty techniques and how-tos, and when the payment system is in place, I'll offer this information to the world. Get your nickels ready.