If Post succeeds in the spectacular way we all hope it will, its greatest accomplishment won’t be giving people a better version of Twitter. It will be fulfilling one of the earliest and dearest dreams of the internet: Micropayments.
Back when modems were singing their slow songs over landlines, internet pioneers expected that soon we would support all kinds of art, literature, and technology through tiny online payments. For various (largely boring) reasons, that didn’t happen.
We continued with the advertising model for nearly all content. We’ve gotten by, but ads are an inefficient and annoying way of supporting creative work. Of necessity, they interrupt and distract us. They pull us out of the experience. They try to manipulate us. And the platforms that depend on them end up manipulating content and content creators. Of course they do. Their entire model for making money is a bait-and-switch: Attract attention with content, then divert that attention to the messages of those who will pay.
Subscriptions are one way around the need for advertising, but it’s notoriously difficult to get folks to sign up. And for good reason. Committing to pay a substantial chunk of money each month indefinitely is a big ask.
If only, when I find something I like, I could support it a little bit, right now. Without friction. Say, I have a pool of, oh, let’s call them points. And when I encounter a piece of content that delights me, that makes me laugh, that makes me think, that contributes to my life in some way, I could instantly express my appreciation of that content. I could toss the equivalent of a few coins in points directly to the creator of that content. Neither of us would have to commit to a continued financial relationship, and no third party would swoop in to take advantage of the moment. I could enjoy the content uninterrupted, and the maker could benefit.
That sounds familiar, right? And the genius of the Post micropayment model, I think, is that it not only enables exactly that kind of exchange, it democratizes it. I can tip anyone who adds value to my experience here. If it’s someone who feeds their family with their creative output, they can cash out my tip and do just that. Or if it’s someone who is simply a lovely member of the community, my tip gives them points they can use to enhance their own experience here — they can buy premium content to enjoy or they can have the fun of tipping others. There’s something so essentially friendly about that!
As we continue this beta test, let’s really explore the possibilities of a micropayment culture. And as we welcome new Posters in, let’s let them know that tipping isn’t just a neat little extra thing we do around here. It might be the way we change the world.