Flattr: new micropayments system from Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde

Peter Sunde, whom you may know as one of the guys who created The Pirate Bay, is launching a new micropayment system called Flattr. Above, a video explaining how it works. "Many large streams will form a river."


  1. This name sounds way too much like a cutesy form of flatus for my tastes.

    “Oop! I made a flattr…”

  2. So if you consume more content you pay less for it than if you consume less content. And there’s no real incentive to pay the fee other than guilt? Love? Altruism? I won’t hold my breath.

    1. The first point you made is correct.
      But why would you pay?! Because you want that service to survive and not just disappear next month..

  3. Potentially useful as an online tip jar, but doesn’t help those of us selling content for a set (if small) amount – such as 99 cent albums, comics, etc – and looking for a micropayments alternative to the black hole of suck that is Paypal.

    1. For those with a big audience, the “pay what you want” tip jar is actually pretty darned effective – if you are Radiohead you can just give up the idea of any set price tag and know you’ll make plenty. For those handful of us who aren’t quite as well known as them, I wonder… would ten people give you ten cents each with an ultra-simple click, who would not have given you 99 cents for your product, especially if it involved a PayPal transaction?

      I would love to see someone do this for a while and see if the tip jar collects more than a set price does – a tricky experiment to setup a control for. I’ll give it a shot, but I am starting with a free product, not a priced one.

      I also wonder what their flat rate is, and is it variable? If I want to be a Patron of the Internet Arts, can I put ten million in and pick a handful of webcomics I really really love?

      1. Ah, but with Flattr (unless I’m misunderstanding it), it ISN’T “pay what you want” – you can’t say, I want this musician to get a big slice of my cake/monthly flattr fee, but this webcomic writer only gets a couple crumbs this month. It’s just (flat fee)/(number of clicks that month)=payment amount.

        Plus, the payment comes monthly so thus potentially weeks after the tip jar was clicked. That will serve to make writers neurotic, if nothing else.

        Flattr seems like a great system for bloggers, but not necessarily one for makers.

        1. I understand that it is a flat fee and the creators get paid the portion of the flat fee that corresponds to the number of clicks. My question is, how big is that flat fee? And is it universal? Does everyone pay say five bucks a month, or can I decide how much I want to spend per month?

          If I know I have a very large cake (to borrow their narrative device and eat it too), I know that clicking the top three comics I like that month results in three authors getting big slices. If all I ever have to give is portions of a tiny cupcake, I might consider my clicks differently, or just not bother with this system and send the author a check instead.

          Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want album allowed people to spend hundreds if they wanted, and I get your point, this does not work that way. People -can- do the mental calculation, though, that they have clicked on a lot of people this month, and that means this one author they like isn’t getting much. They may wish to put more money in to enhance the payment their favorites get, or may save up one month and only click one, or they may develop a pattern (this author gets four clicks, this one two).

          I would hope that is is “pay what you want” in the sense that you can choose how much you wish to spend on things per month, otherwise I think the fee will feel uncomfortably little or uncomfortably large for most people. The tip-jar vs 99 cent widget experiment may hinge on this question, a group of people whose clicks are worth more than a few cents change the proposition substantially.

          Wait, writers aren’t neurotic all the time anyway?

  4. Maybe it is silly of me, but I am always annoyed by business and projects that insist on presenting their information only in video form. Sure, a nice synopsis video is great for presentations, but while I am listening to the radio, or at work in my quiet shared cubicle, or just want the basic facts quickly, I expect to be able to go to a website and read up. I don’t need your model in narrative form, just the basic facts – I’ll dig deeper if they look interesting.

    Anyway, it does look interesting – not any kind of revolutionary idea, but if someone with enough public interest and audience (anyone here know what this Pirate Bay thing is?*) can push it mainstream, it could be the micropayment system that actually catches on – widespread uptake is the key. Having a flat rate really helps, I think, you don’t need to work out an elaborate credit card authorization/authentication process for every transaction.

    I’ll give it a shot, see what happens.

    *That was a joke.

  5. Reminds me of another website, Fattr. You buy a cake from their site, and every time you hear, see, or read content you like, you eat another piece.

  6. So content creation should now be targeted to those that find your content interesting enough to bother clicking your flattr button but not to those that regularly click flattr buttons in general.

    You get a much larger piece of cake from someone who casually flattr’s or rarely remembers to than those that actively and regularly engage in the model.

    How counter-intuitive.

  7. part of me says great, another part is just so tired of our obsession with “content” and “payments” and shit that has been around from the beginning of time but is being shoved down our throats in discussion over and over with this new “internet revolution” to the Nth degree. i know, people need money to live, blah blah blah. i’m so much happier doing my thing on my own and not thinking about it than i was when i was thinking about it. fuck all this wasted energy. just make what you want to make and forget about marketing yourself.

  8. So it’s like a discretionary subscription service? I’ve paid for content online many times (most of which involved paypal), but I just don’t see myself using this. It seems a little to arbitrary.

    Also, unless you have wide adoption of the service, you’re creating a conflict. Let’s say I do use it, and I have a specific budget per month for online content, what happens if I see something I’d like to pay for but the maker doesn’t use Flattr? I might feel inclined to pass because my budget restricted funds are already tied up in a system that this maker doesn’t use.

    Only time will tell, of course.

  9. I like the idea in theory and I might even think about signing up if enough of the content providers I regularly visit started having Flattr buttons. But I do have some of the same questions as other posters and I’d also want to know what happens to my cake if I don’t click any providers in a given month.

  10. Darn. Got my hopes up for a second. As one who has longed for an effective mPayment system since the mid-90’s, this is kind of a disappointment. The premise is okay as an on-line tip jar, but what we really need is the ability to take that same “cake” and slice it into tiny fractional quantities. Then, we could price our content at what we consider the “blink factor” – the point at which people don’t stop to consider if something is worth it to them. Even if it is only a penny, nickel, dime or 1/10th of a cent, they pay. This way, the content is monetized, the consumer doesn’t mind the amount, and the author doesn’t have to rely on the mood and memory of their consumers.

  11. And in related news TPB is being blocked in Italy, I’m referring to its IP, not just name resolution as they already did in the past.
    This is chinese-like censorship by all means. Please help us to get rid of our corrupt politicians!

  12. One step closer to Wuffie. If they can add in a function to set a % of my monthly ‘internet entertainment’ account bundget right off the top (for the people I read very frequently – like BoingBoing, Slashdot and Digg would probably get 5-10% each), a ‘lump sum now’ (for freely offered albums or remix collections), and then the rest is sliced to all my other flattr click recipients (flash games, tutorials, etc) it could end up working out.

  13. This is a great idea, assuming that you can decide what to pay monthly. Then you decide upfront how much you want to pay people on the internet a month, which has two advantages: one for you (you don’t worry that you’re going to spend too much) and one for other people on the internet (because you’ll always spend that much money on *somebody’s* stuff — although I wonder what happens if you don’t click on any buttons all month).

    Unless your surfing habits are highly irregular, you will probably average the same number of clicks each month. If you have a busy month, you can always re-click on some stuff a month later. If you find yourself clicking on more stuff regularly, which is likely to happen as more people whose stuff you like get buttons, you can raise your monthly fee.

    There’s no reason why people can’t have a button *and* solicit PayPal donations *and* sell things more traditionally. I don’t think this competes with other payment methods as much as it does with not paying anything because it’s too much trouble and you can’t be bothered.

    I’ve always thought that micropayments will only take off when they are as simple to use as the small change you have in your wallet. I think this is pretty much there. So I’ve signed up for an invite; I hope the creator’s fame (or notoriety) will give this enough of a starting push to make it work.

  14. i think it’s freakin awesome. seems to be straight forward and lean. all the best to peter’s new project, arrr.


  15. As a content creator I wish that a plan like this would work, but I’m a skeptical. I don’t see what incentive the user has to sign up for such a service. Sure plenty of people might be willing to drop a buck in an online tip jar but would they be willing enough to go through the process of setting up this service? To go to the web page, enter your user information, banking information, create a new password? If this is going to work the sign up process had better be REALLY quick and painless because from hear it looks like a lot of hoops to jump through just to be beneficent.

  16. I’d much rather click a ‘flattr’ button than click thru some google ads as a form of micropayment. Which I do, BTW, and I bet a bunch of others do, too.

  17. I like the idea a lot. It occurs to me that if I want to give one creator a bigger slice of cake, I can just click twice. I think its definitely workable, but I’d need to see flattr buttons on my favourite sites before I’ll sign up.

  18. I think it’s a lovely idea that definitely deserves exploring, but has anyone considered that the cake may well turn out to be a lie?

  19. Here’s how to fix the world and for the first time reward artists fairly & equitably for their work.

    * Establish a WORLDWIDE ISP tax. Individuals pay, whatever, say 5 bucks a month, corporations pay more.

    * All the money goes into a big ol’ pot

    * All created content – writing, music, video, stills, whatever – goes on a Central Royalty Server, ala iTunes. (I’d prefer not to use the server, but it seems you need it centralized to eliminate fraud)

    * All content is free to users. Like a song? Download the MP3. Every download delivers 1/10th of a cent or whatever to the creator.

    Problem solved.

  20. sounds a bit like imooch.com. but what’s the motivation for someone to by cake in this case? even if people are generous… they’re also lazy about signing up for anything.

  21. A good example of how important it is to have good graphic design when presenting a new business on the web. I know the project is’;t about design, but the way it looks doesn’t give me much confidence that they are good at what they do.

  22. I think it’s freaking brilliant. A great mixture of psychology and coding.

    Sure, most people don’t mind giving a buck to some good content – but going through a payment gateway is such a hassle.

    “What’s my password? How much should I give, is it enough, not enough? Damn, I’ve got that report due in 30 minutes. Oh well, maybe I’ll just give next time I visit”

    Getting people to prepay an amount every month to donate to online content is a great way of getting around this. It’s easy to fit into your monthly budget, which I feel will improve giving. “I paid $70 for cable I don’t hardly even watch, I can easily give $40 for online content”. It removes all doubt from donating. You don’t have to think about it, just give.

    Bravo, bravo.

  23. I like the simplicity. When I donate to a site its >$15, anything less seems like a waste of time + fees.

    But I also want to give more to certain sites. Maybe one click is the standard, and some other action brings you to a star rating or perhaps a dollar value.

  24. Must admit I’m intrigued. Digg + tip jar. My only observation is this will likely drive content creators to split their content into separate flattr-able chunks? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I guess. Also, this might seem neat because the abuse patterns aren’t well worn — I’d like to see the security/trust structure first.

  25. I’m thinking of this something like a voluntary internet tax for the free cool stuff I get from the Internet every day.

    I really like the flat fee idea, because it is very empowering, in a way that a lot of social web stuff isn’t (all those little “share” buttons don’t do anything FOR ME, but Flattr makes me feel like I’m actively contributing to the stuff that I like). I’ve got this potential, every month, and now it is up to The Internets to earn it. And I can click as much as I want without worrying about “overdraft” charges or the like, so I am encouraged to give over and over again. It bypasses the “how much will this cost me?” question I have as a consumer, because I know the cost ahead of time. I mean, how many people keep a keen eye on their cell phone bills, or their WoW payments? I’d gladly Flattr a cool YouTube video posted to Boing Boing, or such. Indeed, I see this as a stronger incentive for creators than bloggers, since if you link to my YouTube video, that’s giving people the chance to Flattr that video, not you for the link.

    I love that we’re trying new things. It’s about time.

    1. Sure, here’s how it’s different: flattr borrows the “-r” ending from popular websites like flickr and tumblr, whereas kachingle borrows the “-gle” ending from google.
      So, they’re unoriginal in different ways.

  26. Google should get into this and also provide a proper alternative to ebay and paypal…

    the micropayment system would link in well with providing a limited preview of the page through Google search with the option to click through and make a micropayment to see the entire article.

    and by micropayments, I mean small sums like a penny or two…

  27. They will have to ensure revenues keep up with the expansion of site buttons, otherwise they will collapse.

    Transparency could be a problem.

    With Paypal or a credit card it’s not impossible to get scammed, but it’s easy to figure out if you have been scammed. If you don’t get the goods or service you pay for there is a problem. If money is missing from your account, you know there is a problem.

    If you do some flattring andno one gets paid how would you know? If you are able to monitor the clicks on your site, how do you know for sure you are getting your rightful share? Is this a public venture? Will they be obligated to conform to some sort of financial disclosure and audit standards?

  28. Some additional info:

    Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan said you will be able to choose your own flat rate, but that it will have a lower limit of €2 (about $3). Initially, flattr will keep 10% of the monthly fee. According to Sunde, their hope is that they will be able to lower this as the service gets more users. Additional revenue could actually be interest on the money during the time flattr has it.

    Flattr is a registered corporation (“Aktiebolag”) in Sweden, and in the interview Sunde was pretty open about the fact that they do want make a revenue:
    – “We want a model where we earn money, but we want as much of it as possible to go to the people the users choose to send money to. Our goal isn’t to get rich doing this, our goal is giving the internet a simple transaction solution. We will take as small a port of the cake as possible — if we become too expensive, the service will no longer be attractive.”

    Swedish newspaper article: http://sydsvenskan.se/kultur-och-nojen/article629142/Peter-Sunde-byter-kurs-med-Flattr.html

  29. Microcurrencies are definitely the future of the internet, but its going to be difficult to keep scam-artistry out of this one

Comments are closed.