I recently created a WordPress plugin for Interledger that allows anyone to Web Monetize their WordPress site as simply as possible.
I’ve been involved with Web Monetization since 2019. First, my agency Pragmatic (since acquired by Angry Creative) built the first iterations of the Coil WordPress plugin. Then, since April 2021 I’ve been an ambassador to WordPress for Grant for the Web as an individual.
Over those three years or so, my enthusiasm for the technology has grown but I also came to see the challenges to adoption more and more clearly. What Web Monetization does is essentially to provide an open source way to send money between digital wallets over the web.
There are two particular, synergistic challenges with adoption:
Website visitors must have a digital wallet to send funds that’s available, activated and funded. To spend their money, those visitors must feel that it’s worth doing. At this stage in the Web Monetization story, the vast majority of websites are not yet Web Monetized and so there is little incentive for visitors to set up an account with a WM provider like Coil.
Websites must set up a digital wallet to receive those funds and implement a (very simple) standard on their site that declares a ‘payment pointer’ - basically an address to which any funds are sent. On the other side of the transaction, website owners don’t see significant demand for Web Monetization from their visitors and are therefore reluctant to invest expensive developer effort in implementation. Even if they do, the amounts they receive will be small until the demand side increases.
In short, it’s a classic two-sided marketplace challenge.
I believe that charity can help catalyse this marketplace and that’s what drove the idea of this plugin. How can charity help?
- Aggregation - whilst individual websites may only generate a low amount of money via Web Monetization, when many websites all point to the same payment pointer the amounts transferred can aggregate and become more meaningful.
Publishers aren’t going to send funds to a competitor or other commercial interest. But they may well feel comfortable contributing these funds to charity; especially if that charity is one that supports their area of interest. Think Internet Archive or the WordPress Foundation.
Implementation - as a publisher, setting up a payment pointer is usually the most time-consuming and difficult part of getting Web Monetized. In the new plugin, we take this pain away by offering publishers the ability to simply select an existing charity that already has a payment pointer set up.
Adoption - as the barriers to publishers drop and the impact on charities grows, this will (hopefully) catalyse the positive loop of adoption.
Website visitors learn about Web Monetization from publishers that want to demonstrate their charitable activity ->
More website visitors become Web Monetized ->
Charities start receiving more funds via Web Monetized partners ->
Charities promote the benefits of Web Monetization ->
More publishers become Web Monetized (return to top) -^
At some point in the adoption curve, publishers start to see enough Web Monetized users to warrant investing the time in setting up their own payment pointer and experimenting with user experience strategies that leverage Web Monetization such as offering gated content or ad-free experiences.
Is this guaranteed to work? No, of course not. But it is a plan that recognises the two key challenges inherent in any two-sided marketplace model and seeks to remove the barriers to entry or pain points in order to systematically ratchet up adoption.
I hope it works; the web will be a richer place for Web Monetization.