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Storage To The People

Web Monetization For Data

James Vasile
James lives out on the open web, tending to the FOSS herds, and living the dream of electric sheep.
・2 min read

Much of the web is ephemeral. Your digital social life streams by, and every time you look, it's changed again. So much of our online selves disappears, even the parts we want to preserve. This is especially true on a multi-generational timeframe. Without your active participation, your online self slowly fades. Permanent.org's mission is to stem the tide, to help preserve your online self for future generations. We are excited to be working on a project to use web monetization to pay for storage of temporary text documents from Etherpad Lite. As part of that project, we are considering ways web monetization could extend beyond replacing ads.

We come at this with an eye toward long-term sustainability. Permanent is a non-profit focused on helping people preserve their digital legacies across generations. We steward permanent storage of your documents, media, and data, and are working on a set of tools to help you manage digital archives for posterity.

Our web monetization project explores new ways to integrate Permanent storage into services on a micropayments basis. We're starting with Etherpad Lite, an ephemeral service that hosts temporary text documents ("pads") and enables collaborative editing. By integrating web monetization and Permanent, we can make pads endure. Your work ends up safely in your Permanent archive, and eventually you will be able to take it to other Permanent-enabled Etherpad instances. Our work will thus enable some short-term data resilience that leads to long-term preservation.

Etherpad Lite is just the start. In the longer term we will look for more ways to improve temporary services by adding portable, permanent storage.

What's more important than what we're building is why we proposed this project. We're having a lot of fun adding Permanent, portable storage to Etherpad Lite documents. It's so much fun, in fact, that we have to keep reminding ourselves we're not actually here to just build nifty features into Etherpad Lite. This is a research project. The real goal is to better understand how web monetization works with new types of online services.

We don't quite fit the typical use for web monetization described on the Coil website. We're not monetizing content. We're not replacing an ad-supported business. The dominant web monetization infrastructure offered by Coil does not quite match up with our needs. Identifying all those gaps is why we're here. By the time we're done, we hope to have a good idea of what the missing ecosystem pieces are, and that is the deliverable we're most excited about. It's a roadmap to expanding web monetization to new types of offerings. Once we have that, the real work (and the real fun) begins.

If you want to follow along or jump in and play, the work lives on github. Come join us!

Discussion (2)

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erikad profile image
Erika

As a longtime etherpad user, I love that you're focusing your initial experimentation around this tool, and content that is deliberately ephemeral (at least you think it's ephemeral until you lose a precious etherpad and then it's tears all around!) It's fascinating to learn from folks who don't fall into the traditional ad-supported or paywalled content business models. Can't wait to see what you uncover!

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Cecilia Krum

I love this in part because it will help me find my pads again!

I'm also always happy to see alternatives to ads, and this is an interesting approach to monetizing attention.