How to build a real Web Economy – a socialist one By William Bowles

5 August, 2100

The dilemma for Capital is that the Web blows away the concept of private ownership, it just gets in the way of doing business

For a number of years there have been various attempts at designing a micro payment system that works effectively for small amounts of money that paying by card or Paypal for example, most just can’t be bothered to do.

Since the 1980s, when I first started playing around with a nascent Web, I realized that content had to have some kind of universal exchange value in the form of inputs – what you contribute in the way of content, and outputs – what gets ‘consumed’ and paid for. Ideally, when you access a Web page, after reading a precis you’d be asked if you want to ‘buy’ the content. By clicking on a button, your online account would be automatically debited, perhaps only pennies, or even fraction of a penny.

Likewise, when one of my pieces pops up on numerous Websites (often unknown to me), its use value would always be tracked and counted, all automatically of course, else it won’t work. Ideally, it should work for both reading and for publishing/republishing.

The problem has always been how to make it universal, so that a real economy that’s generating real, but this is important, dynamic value can develop. The value is dynamic because the value of any piece of content would vary with use, the more ‘consumed’ it is, the greater it’s value. Taken individually, the transactions would really quite small, but multiplied by millions, even billions of users, those who actually make the wealth that resides within the Web, that’s you and me, could earn a living by simply utilising the Web either by contributing useful content (difficult but doable) or by consuming content (easy– if it’s tiny amounts of money, not a a quid a page, which is what Murdoch’s mob are charging). But I think it would certainly sort the wheat from the chaff.

Of course, not every site need participate, I reckon most would remain just as they are, free, but over time its use would spread, even if only to try and pay for the cost of being online in the first place! Why should the owners of the mean of communication be the only ones to make money simply out us just being here?

Right now, it’s only the big corporations that make money out of the Web’s content, mostly sideways, that is from advertising. And they also make money out of owning access to the Web’s infrastructure and its links to all the other media outlets it also owns.

The attempts by some of the corporations to charge for content, eg Murdoch’s News Corp, to build their own system of content ‘micro’ payment still follows the old, privatized method of wealth generation.

The Web economy cries out for socialist solution, firstly because its use and function is ubiquitous, and secondly because it is made up of everyone who uses it. And this includes all those design the software that makes it function, but like I said, to make it work, we have to have a new measure of value to reflect the way the wealth is generated.

I reckon the best way would be to build it into a new Web Server Standard via what we called an Anonymous Information Service or AIS, this would automatically track transactions but do it anonymously: all that’s being done is that numbers are being moved around following a user’s or a contributor’s transactions across the Web. The Server encrypts all the transactions so hopefully it’s secure.

The dilemma for Capital is that the Web blows away the concept of private ownership, it just gets in the way of doing business.

Check out the FLATTR system below for an example. This is their blurb, not mine.

* Flattr is a social micropayment platform that lets you show love for the things you like.
* Help support the people you like and enable them to continue with what they do.
* Add your own things to Flattr and receive appreciation from others.

I’ve just signed up by paying a small amount into a credit/debit system that is the heart of FLATTR system as you start out paying someone for all or part of any content that you grab, that is of course, part of the FLATTR system. And therein lies the rub, you gotta join the system in order to ultimately/potentially benefit from it.

Does it work? Well it’s not live yet so the jury is out, but generating income ‘for the rest of us’ out of the work we collectively perform in bringing news and information to readers/viewers is, in my opinion, a vital part of the Web.

And it’s not all clear to me whether FLATTR (flatterer, ged it? Swedish humour I suppose) is for consuming content or republishing it, or both? I’m going to have to dig into it some more.



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