Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Tip The Web

This summer, I wrote about a little micro-payments system called Flattr, praising it for making donating money to websites both easily budgetable. At that time, I had two major issues. First, Flattr's userbase was really small, as they were limiting it for early Beta. They're still beta, but they've gone to open enrollment, and they seem to be doing much better for it.

Second, you don't get to choose the amount donated. Assuming you stick to the €2 per month minimum, what you're Flattr'd will receive either a lot of money, or virtually none, since the amount donated is simply the monthly amount divided by the number of Flattr'ings you've done. This means that you have little control over the value of each click. Now, I use Flattr for several participating podcasts, and it's interesting, but this second point has been an absolute deal breaker for a lot of people I've shown Flattr to.

Almost immediately after I blogged about Flattr, I got a message from Eric Ferraiuolo, a person I'm lucky enough to work with through the YUI team, regarding a project that he'd been working on for quite some time, TipTheWeb. I was given access to the early staging, but now that the service is finally into Beta, I can talk about it.

TipTheWeb is a non-profit which is seeking to change the web fundamentally for the better. Like Flattr, TipTheWeb is a micro-payments system which allows you to pay content providers a small sum of money for the work that they've done. However, unlike Flattr, TipTheWeb tips URLs, not content. This means that content providers don't need to register their content, or use something like the Flattr JavaScript API which can add content via a sort of hack, I'm still holding out for the Flattr REST API, as that should be able to simplify use of the JavaScript in a really good way.

But that problem simply doesn't exist with TipTheWeb, content can be tipped easily based on it's URL, and as a content provider, all I need to do is 'claim' the content via OAuth or other standard methods. Content Providers can even claim content after it's been tipped, and TipTheWeb will be able to disburse the tip later.

From a usage standpoint, you either donate by going to TipTheWeb and entering the URL into their website, or they've got a bookmarklet that you can use to donate with two clicks without ever leaving the site that you want to tip.

Once you've made a few tips, you go to TipTheWeb where you can fund, or not fund, as many tips as you've made. Of course, to start, you'll need to make a donation to TipTheWeb, which is currently done via PayPal. But here's the best part of that, if you donate $5.00, you get the full $5.00 to tip with.

But, clearly the content provider needs to be on TipTheWeb to recieve tips. If they are not, then TipeTheWeb will, after 6 months, return the tip for use elsewhere. I don't know if TipTheWeb will be making efforts (automated, of course) to inform content publishers of outstanding, unclaimed tips, but that is a very tricky problem.

For now, I think that TipTheWeb and Flattr serve slightly different purposes, and may be able to coexist, but I love that TipTheWeb doesn't require me, as a content provider, to jump through any hoops to submit content. Currently, Invite Codes are required to get into the Beta, but I hope that the closed Beta will be fairly short.