Facebook is considering the introduction of a virtual “tip jar”, so users can tip small amounts of money to the pages and people they like most.
The proposal is one of several the company is consulting with users on, according to the Verge’s Casey Newton, who received a survey detailing the options.
As well as a tip jar, Facebook also proposed a number of options for better monetising sponsored posts, which could lead to an increase in branded content on the timelines of users. It suggested: revenue sharing from traditional Facebook ads, similar to that already offered to publishers who post “Instant Articles”; a “call-to-action” button, allowing a post to have a single button to, say, “buy tickets” alongside the like button, and; the ability to embed a donate link, similar to the tip jar but with the cash going to a charity of the page owner’s choice.
The ability to tip people and publications has been attempted multiple times on the internet, most prominently through start-up Flattr, which allows users to set a monthly budget and distributed it through online tip jars. It’s also a popular use of bitcoin, thanks to the low transaction fees of the crypto-currency.
But most attempts to date have failed due to a chicken and egg problem: there’s no point setting up a tip jar if users don’t have the right payment mechanism, and there’s no point setting up the payment mechanism if websites don’t set up a tip jar.
Where there have been successes, it’s come through a site with dominance over a particular niche. Video game streaming site Twitch, for instance, has managed to build a sustainable ecosystem through users becoming subscribers to individual channels.
Facebook, thanks to its sheer scale, could be the first to pull off successful tipping online. If it did, it could increase the number of people and publishers for whom posting directly to Facebook makes financial sense, and provide an incentive for those who already post to Facebook to make it their primary platform.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 20th April 2016 09.31 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010