The HTTP 1.1 specification contains a status code
402 Payment Required, which is briefly described as “reserved for future use”. In 1999 it was unclear how network micropayments could be achieved, but the idea was present. With the rise of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the “future use” is now.
Below are some examples of files being sold using the Paspagon payment processor. You need BlackCoin to buy them (Bitcoin support has been dropped due to high transaction fees). When you come to a page related to a particular file, QR codes will be generated which contain payment addresses and amounts for Bitcoin and BlackCoin. When you make a payment, you should be automatically redirected to an Amazon S3 server and the file download should start. This is a mechanism somehow similar to the (non existent anymore) Cointagion site, which however had been concentrated on selling ebooks, while Paspagon allows anyone to sell any file.
Note: as Paspagon suspended providing services on the 1st of May, 2018, the examples below will not work.
Photo: sunset at the Puget Sound
This is a photo from 1898 by Edward Sheriff Curtis. Various resolutions are available:
Music: Étude Op. 10, No. 12
Known as the Revolutionary Étude, this is a work by Frédéric Chopin from circa 1831, performed by Glen W. Prillaman. One format is available:
- Ogg/Opus – 1 BLK – mono, 48 000 Hz, 691.1 kB
- Short clip (12s) – 1 BLK – 320×180, 30 fps, WebM/[VP9,Vorbis], 524.4 kB
- Torrent file for longer clip (3m 37s) – 1 USD – 1920×1080, ~60 fps, MP4/[H264,AAC], 783 MB
Ebook: The Privatization of Roads and Highways
Text: Running for Governor
A satire from 1870 by Mark Twain. One format is available:
- HTML – 1 BLK
All the above files should generally open inside a browser (except torrent and ebook files which typically will open in a dedicated app), however the seller can easily set them to start downloading to disc.
The whole process can even be automated – Paspagon returns a header containing payment URIs, so a browser plugin or a command line,
curl-like utility can be written which performs payments automatically or semi-automatically. You can even imagine subscribing to a paid podcast feed with automatic payments made when a new episode is released. This is a more flexible solution than credit cards as you can set much more granular limits. No more than one podcast a week? No problem. Limit payment amount to 2 USD for podcast X and to 5 USD for podcast Y? No problem. This is also a much safer solution, as subscription revocation is done entirely on your side and after it the publisher has no way of charging you more.
Paspagon is a service dedicated currently to process file payments, but it may be extended to support also arbitrary payments. Other services may allow you, for example, to pay only for a portion of a website. The future of web micropayments is interesting.
Disclosure: I am the founder of Paspagon.