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Flattr Me? Will Online Micropayments Ever Take Off?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, June 23 2010

I'm noodling around with a new micro-payments platform called Flattr. The button below links to our PdF 2010 video of Meetup founder Scott Heiferman's keynote talk at the conference, where he argued that "followers" do not a movement make. If you click on the button below, it takes you to a sign-up page for the service (which is still in private beta, but I have a few invites to give away), and an explanatory video.

As the site's founders put it, "Flattr was founded to help people share money, not only content. Before Flattr, the only reasonable way to donate has been to use Paypal or other systems to send money to people. The threshold for this is quite high. People would just ignore sending donations if it wasn't for a really important cause. Sending just a small sum has always been a pain in the ass. Who would ever even login to a payment system just to donate €0.01? And €10 was just too high for just one blog entry we liked... "

Flattr aims to solve this problem by getting you to pay just once a month, and then divide your actual micro-payments among all the particular items or people that you choose to "flattr" over the course of that month. To participate, you have to create an account and put at least a few Euros in (yes this is not an American company), which then allows you to both send and receive payments. "You must be willing to give to get," the founders note. This strikes me as very smart social engineering, since it tackles the most obvious obstacle--our propensity to want to get paid, more than pay others--right from the start. In effect, Flattr sets up a worldwide poker game and you have to ante up to play.

It's way early to say if Flattr will spread, but it's certainly an intriguing new tool. Let me know if you are using it and if you have something worth flattering...