Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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Digital Cash

deft donations or surf stopping tithing

Digital Cash on the Internet

personal finance as fluid as information
flash: commerce could pervade virtual worlds,

you will not surf without dropping a dime a link.

Most money is virtual these days (credit: money yet to exist).
We are rapidly moving beyond real world signifiers at real world points of sale - signatures, cards, paper and metal, cash registers
ultimately the wealth of the western world is transacted by computers.

Digital Cash is virtual money, user manipulatable online. You will convert your "real" dollars into information currency, kept track of by some central authority or elaborate encryption scheme.

When you turn on your computer, your wallet will boot up on your desktop.

From Internet tolls to pay-as-you-play software, you will be assessed endless bursts of miniscule fees by a dizzying array of personal purveyors.

You won't buy expensive softwarez packages and make copies for your friends, you will rent the program, paying as you go.

An end to volunteer shareware, and software retail. Martin wants a sequencing program for his computer/synthesizer. If he can't afford to pay $700 dollars to buy the software outright, he can pay by the hour.

Since he'll likely get the software over the Internet, the creator won't have to charge him for packaging the product, printing the manuals, distribution to software stores. Because it is ostensibly cheaper, more people are likely to pay as they play - less pirating - more potential revenue.

Here the line between information and software will be further blurred.

This technology will similarly empower content creators. Large publishers will garner massive information toll profits from their ample article archives. Small publishers will make their take on their specialty.

Of course pornography will pioneer this technology, as porn tapes perpetuated the VCR. Some guy takes nudie photos of himself, advertises the link. Thumbnail pictures are free - to see the screen size graphic detail is gonna cost you. Without a printing press, a delivery truck, a marketing staff, or a host of lawyers, he'll be kickin' it freestyle.

If you were asked to pay 5 cents to read something online, would you? A quarter?
It won't seem like much to either party - but when you consider thousands of such transactions a day...

Some will stand on principle - information/the Internet should be free.
But folks who throw themselves into content creation need to be supported, because web pages take time to create, computers to live on, and phone lines to distribute.

Digital cash will encourage and empower publishers - more people will publish for a buck.

It will break the flow though. Before searching for stuff or plunging into a new web site, you will have to judge its worth according to your information budget.

Perhaps it will lead to healthy moderation of online hours.

More likely, it will be a punch in the stomach of a body that breathes information.
I don't want to restrict my readers to people with cash - real or virtual. Access to technology is prohibitively priced as it is without demanding web surfers pay-per-page.
I intend to set up a system of donation. If you like my stuff, give me some money. That way I know no one has been prevented from reading my words, or forced to pay for something they might have ended up not liking.

As easy as it is for me to distribute my words, Digital Cash will make it that easy for folks to support me financially. I'd like to leave that as a choice, not a demand.

l i n k s:

Freelance Writers and Digital Cash, by the National Writers Union, is a scenario of empowerment, how writers will utilize small transactions from their pages to support independent writing. Sort of reminds me of
a piece I wrote called Kickin' it FreeStyle, a vision for Content Providers in the 21st century. If digital cash evolves as it should, people will be freed to persue publishing, independent of institutions. Heck, they might even make a living at it.

The best model for digital cash transactions is posited by DigiCash, inc. They intend to implement an anonymous online cash standard. Issues abound - tax collection, money laundering, counterfieting. They swear by their encryption software to prevent fraudulent transactions - one bank has bought in: Mark Twain Bankshares.
I have played with a beta of their e-cash software and it is slick, fun, nice - fairly seamless. All the properties you'd want in an e-cash system.
They have an ecash FAQ that outlines the basic concepts, and attempts to address the critiques of their system.
Steven Levy surveys the digital cash scene, circa December 1994, in E-Money (That's What I Want). He gave a similar speech at a conference I attended.

Online Commerce overview by Max Miller: a more studied approach.

For a coordinated, acadmic view on the Digital Cash question, check out Carniegie Mellon's proposed NetBill Project: a centralized system of billing - one computer, every buyer/seller has an account. All transactions checked against that computer. I believe it runs counter to Internet decentralization. Marvin Sirbu spoke about it at a conference I attended.

In conjunction with Visa, First Virtual Holdings Incorporated has created what they call the First Virtual Internet Payment System. Now you can run up further Visa debt on the net.

I don't like credit card companies. If they've got such a good thing going, why are they trying to sell it to me so bad?
These folks will be the caretakers of the lists that will result in targeted advertising.
From a digital cash transaction standpoint, the threshold on credit card transactions is too high to permit the type of nickel and diming that will generate online publishing fortunes.

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justin hall | <justin at bud dot com>