Contenture - A different take on Micropayments

Published May 27th, 2009 edit replace rm!

As many of you know I have long been interested in and working with payment systems.

I have never been too much of a fan of most micropayment systems, so when Contenture (the links to them are affiliate links) launched yesterday I was pretty sceptical. Reading their documentation changed my mind a bit and I have now implemented it here on this blog as an experiment.

From a users standpoint he pays a given monthly amount to contenture. This can be as little as $5.95. This is then split on a monthly basis amongst sites using Contenture.

From a users point of view this is kind of similar to other micropayment systems such as Ron Rivest’s ingenious yet failed Peppercoin (PS) system. Contenture is much simpler though, dropping the rigidity in return for ease of user and thus hopefully actual users.

From a site owners perspective Contenture works a bit like google ads in that you place a snippet of javascript on your site. The contenture servers register the amount of pageviews by contenture users on your site and pay you out proportionally your share of the users monthly subscription fee.

So how do you limit non paying members? Well the beauty is you don’t have to and I’m not. It can be purely on the honors system. Signing up as a user for Contenture allows you to budget exactly how much you want to pay on a monthly basis to your frequently read blogs to keep them posting, without having to worry about signing up for each one.

It does allow you to enable or disable parts of the page to paying members through a very simple javascript api. So you could disable ads (which is what I’m doing) or only allow comments to paying users. There are quite a lot of possibilities to experiment with. However I think just doing it on the honor system and disabling advertising should be fine for most bloggers.

Can this system be gamed? Oh yes, do I care. Not at all. People can already install ad blockers etc, so really who cares.

What I would like to see is a bit more information about who they are. Whois tells me they are in Portland, Oregon. According to CrunchBase one of the Co Founders is Alex Wilhelm who’s based out of Chicago.

This kind of stuff should be easily available, at least to provide some basic level of trust in a payment system. I’m sure it’s just an oversite, but I think they should have an About Us page. (Come to think of it so should we at Agree2 ). My investment in using them is fairly small right now, but if it grows I’d certainly like to know more.

Who should look at Contenture? Bloggers definitely. I’d say probably it would be a good alternative payment method for small microsites like all the little twitter web apps that are out there as well. These could easily enable/disable simple features for paying users.

What has been the biggest problem with micropayment systems so far? I believe they have been too strict. The hassle doesn’t seem worth it to the users.

Contenture allows you to mix this up a bit. It’s ok if people don’t pay, lets make it easy for those who want to support you and not treat those who don’t like 2nd class citizens.

So why don’t you try Signing up for Contenture either as a user, blogger or to see if it might work on your own site. It will take you a few minutes to add it to your blog and maybe half an hour on a smaller web application. I am not affiliated with them (besides being a member site with affiliate links of course), but I am pushing them as I do like to see innovation in a field that hasn’t seen innovation since PayPal more than 10 years ago.


Sean May 27th, 2009

Hi, thanks for the write up. The help page has a question “Who is Contenture?” that says we are out of Portland, OR, and that we’re also the same team behind, which is a popular web analytics service (we have over 100,000 users). Our contact page also contains our phone number. We hope these details provide some level of trust to people.

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My name is Pelle Braendgaard. Pronounce it like Pelé the footballer (no relation). I live in Managua, Nicaragua. I am the Technical Lead at uPort a Self Sovereign Identity Platform built on Ethereum.

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