2010, Micropayments, and You


“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” – Yogi Berra

A few weeks ago I sat down to join my blogging brethren for the obligatory “My Predictions for 2010” post.  However, after seeing the strain that the massive influx of self-importantism was putting on the Internet as a whole, I decided to scrap my post and wait for the dust to settle a bit before adding my two cents.

That, and I was too lazy to finish the post before leaving for my holiday break.  Which was amazing, by the way, thanks for asking.

After looking at my predictions for the sweeping waves of change that were bearing down upon the new year, I decided to take a step back and focus on the one big prediction that I think will have a major impact on both the company in question and the startup ecosystem as a whole:

Facebook will successfully launch a micropayments system

Facebook has done a fairly good job making money to date, but in order to go public, they need to tap into something much more significant.  One big opportunity they have in front of them is to roll out a payment system that will compete head-to-head with PayPal.  It will enable trusted payments between people in your social graph, 1-click payments on sites that have Facebook Connect installed, and (eventually, and crucially) mobile payments via your phone. 

This will be Facebook’s “AdSense” moment

Just like AdSense paved the way for the ad-based revenue model that fueled the Web 2.0 movement, I believe that Facebook’s micropayment model will have the same effect on the web startup landscape in 2010 and 2011.  Here are a few examples of how this new model might work:

  • Online news sites can switch from a subscription model to a micropayment-per-article model.  This will especially help smaller niche news sites that don’t publish enough articles to justify a monthly subscription fee.
  • SaaS providers can offer a pay-per-use model.  For example, SlideShare could allow users to post 50 slides for free, and charge $.05/slide  for each additional upload.
  • Micropayments could be used as a quality bar to prevent spam for user generated content.  For example, if a popular blog could charge $.01/comment, it might be enough to make the “FIRST!!!!11!ONE” morons think twice before posting.
  • Q and A sites can use micropayments as incentive to get quality answers to questions.  For example, I might offer $.25 to someone who can tell me the name of the grammar robot that Lisa Simpson invented in S12E18: Trilogy of Error.

These are just a few quick examples off the top of my head, and as with any new innovation, the most interesting ones are yet to be discovered.

OK, so there’s my big prediction.  Keep an eye out on April 21-22, at Facebook’s annual dev conference, to see if/how this one is going to pan out. 

If you want the opportunity to laugh in my face on 1/1/11 when this one doesn’t come true, you should probably follow me on Twitter at @astartupaday.

One response to “2010, Micropayments, and You

  1. Facebook recently hired the creator of Tipjoy, and I can only imagine he’s working on some payments-related stuff there.

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