Web Monetization

March 2, 2022

The company I work for, Coil, is one of the big supporters of WebMonetization, which is my favorite way to get small creators paid on the web. Today I am going to explain what that is and how I am setting it up on this site. My views and statements are my own and don’t represent my employer.

What is it?

Everyone who’s ever seen a paywall has had the following thought: “I will not pay $5 for a monthly subscription to see this thing, but why can’t I, you know, just pay a little bit for this specific thing?” Web Monetization is one way to do that, if you want to have a more flexible paywall. But as I’m going to be using it here, it will simply be a way of accepting donations; all of the content on this site remains public.

Where does the money come from?

Coil publishes[1] a browser extension[2] that runs on your browser and, if you visit a web-monetized site, streams very small payments to it from your Coil account.

How does it work?

The person who wants to accept donations via a web site (in this case, me) signs up with a service that offers Interledger Protocol wallets[3]. One of the things that you get with an Interledger Protocol wallet is a payment pointer—basically, it’s like a URL for where to send money. You publish that payment pointer in the HTML for your site, and then anyone who visits your site using a browser with web monetization capabilities will stream small donations to your site while they are there.

How much will I make doing this?

Me? Probably very little. This site has very little traffic and the current rate of payments from the browser extension is a small fraction of a penny per second, as you would expect from a system that is expected to stretch a small amount of money across the sites one uses in a month.

  1. The Interledger Protocol, which Coil uses to provide its service, is an open source protocol, so others could provide similar services. ↩︎

  2. I know browser extensions aren’t for everybody; hopefully in a couple of years there will be options that live in the browsers themselves, and I don’t blame anyone for waiting until then. ↩︎

  3. The web monetization site keeps an updated list of which providers those are. ↩︎