The most prevalent form of a web-based business relies heavily on advertising revenue. In recent times, this model of online business has led to various issues related to user privacy, where ad trackers are constantly tracking web searches. The problem is worsened with clickbait content and companies selling user data to third parties. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress in 2018, he told lawmakers that the social network needed to be free to “connect everyone around the world”. It couldn’t be far from the truth as the platform is not free and derives value by selling user data.
Unless the internet’s entire business model changes, we are doomed to this cycle of constantly trying to protect our privacy online. Clearly, the Internet needs a better model for monetisation and now one company Coil has announced Grant for the Web, a new $100 million fund to help creators and promote innovation in web monetisation. The fund hopes to find solutions to some of the most serious challenges facing the web, including user privacy exploits related to ads and unethical sponsored content.
The organisation is aiming to build an ethical internet based on open standards, giving web users more freedom and control over how they create, circulate and monetise content, as well as designing better business models for the web.
“We envision a world where it’s possible for creators and publishers to get paid for their work without relying on invasive ads, paywalls, and the abuse of personal data. Grant for the Web is founded on the belief that a healthy internet needs openness and opportunity, and that it cannot be built on the backs of individuals’ security and privacy,” states the website.
How Will It be Done
Grant for the Web is committed to awarding at least 50% of all grant dollars to proposed software projects and content projects that will be openly licensed. Special consideration will be given to projects that reflect the values of the global commons, such as increasing users’ autonomy, privacy, and control over their own data, promoting diversity and inclusion on the internet, and increasing access to the full capacity of the internet, for historically marginalised or disadvantaged communities and individuals.
Representatives from Coil, Creative Commons, and Mozilla will make up the initial Grant for the Web Advisory Council, which governs the fund’s activities. Additionally, Coil, Creative Commons, and Mozilla will each designate an advisor to serve on a Technical Advisory Group. The purpose of this group will be to guide the direction of the program, and to review grant applications from a technical perspective and in turn provide recommendations to the Advisory Council.
The project is being built on previous work done by Stefan Thomas, former CTO of payment protocol firm Ripple, and now CEO of Coil – which has pioneered a new internet payment protocol (and aspiring W3C standard) based around an API that allows browsers to make micropayments to content creators.
Web Monetisation Is A Core Part Of Grant For Web
Grant For Web promotes technologies like Web Monetization, a proposed API standard that allows websites to request a stream of very small payments from a user e.g. fractions of a cent. This provides a framework for new revenue models for websites and web-based services, as an alternative to subscription services or advertising, while preserving the user’s privacy.
In exchange for payments from the user, websites can provide the user with a “premium” experience such as exclusive content or by removing advertising or even the need to login to access content or services. The system is based around two key technologies: https://interledger.org: a protocol for sending payments across multiple ledgers and https://paymentpointers.org: a way to express a URL that points to a secure payment initiation endpoint on the Web.
What India Can Learn From The Project?
Web monetisation and creating open standards for the internet that are focused on privacy is something that is highly relevant for countries like India. India has been one of the targets for mass breaches such as the Cambridge Analytica. In the next phase of web-based innovation, there will be a need for solutions in India that focus on user privacy. Also, it will be important for web-based business models that are inclusive to the poor. Projects such as Grant for the Web aim to include marginalised and poor groups globally that have had poor reach to web services ever since it came out. Creating platforms that don’t engage in ad targeting or overzealous data collection and that afford users autonomy and control over their data is something young Indian entrepreneurs can benefit from. By building monetization natively into the web using open protocols and standards benefits both content creators and their supporters by providing access, choice, and user control.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.