02 October 2003

A modest proposal for micropayments

I’ve been running this site for many years, and it takes a lot of work on my part to develop all of the open source software that I do. Why do I do it? Because I believe in open source. However, the costs of hosting build up over time, as I am sure if the case for many people. This is why popular sites sometimes drop off the air.

In the past people have made proposals for complicated micropayment systems to help keep sites running. These have ranged from subscriptions, to credit cards, to whatever. Let’s face facts for a second though — these plans are flawed.

  • Anything involving subscriptions wont work because the Internet is about hitting new sites every day, and you might never return to that site — if the content was useful once, then that’s cool. A subscription is based on the concept of you returning all the time. It simply doesn’t work for the person who Googled, and found your useful page.
  • Anything involving credit cards is going to make people concerned about the safety of their personal data, and whether their credit card will then be fraudulently used.
  • Finally, micropayment systems based on changed to the protocol layers will take a long time to be adopted (if ever) because of the large installed base of client who miss out on upgrades. When was the last time you grand mother upgraded her machine to the latest version of Mozilla?

I therefore humbly propose the following. Pages, if they feel the need for some form of micropayment, should display unobtrusive advertising (down the right hand side of the page, or a small banner perhaps). Google adsense, which is what I have been using for the last couple of days, is good for this. The other advantage of adsense is that the adverts are targetted to the content of the page, which increases the chances of it actually being a useful service for clients.

Then, if you like a page, or it helped you, then click on an advert. Read the stuff at the other end. Don’t just click because you can, make sure that you understand that in return for the content you just read, you agree to be advertised to. Don’t click spam though (repeatedly clicking on ads) — the advertising providers can detect that, and will punish the content provider, which is probably not what you intended.

If you don’t like the content, don’t click on an advert. If you don’t like advertising, don’t click on an advert. If you can’t see an advert which is of interest to you, don’t click on an advert.

However, don’t pretend we’re ever going back to an adverting free Internet. The dot com world changed all of that, be it a change for good or bad.

Dot NET ate my code

Where once my web service used to run, I now get:


    A potentially dangerous Request.Form value was detected from the client (txtChartData=”

    Description: Request Validation has detected a potentially dangerous client input value, and processing of the request has been aborted. This value may indicate an attempt to compromise the security of your application, such as a cross-site scripting attack. You can disable request validation by setting validateRequest=false in the Page directive or in the configuration section. However, it is strongly recommended that your application explicitly check all inputs in this case.

The answer is that Microsoft is seeking to solve insecurity by better validation testing of inputs to your web services. However, they’re doing it in such a draconian way, that everyone immediately turns it off. Checkout this page for more information.