The parent company of Adblock Plus, Eyeo, has acquired micropayment service Flattr in a move that could lessen publishers’ reliance on ads and paywalls by allowing internet users to sustainably fund content they want to support.
The Swedish-based company’s micropayment model allows users to directly fund online publishers and content creators simply by browsing the web.
Implemented as a browser extension, Flattr asks users to set a budget for how much they want to spend on supporting certain websites. Using an algorithm, it then automatically distributes the select denominations to select sites without requiring the user to do anything. The company has promised that users internet history will remain private and can be edited at any time.
Both Adblock Plus and Flattr have been working to create the new version of the micropayment service since last year and now Eyeo has decided to buy the company.
“Over the past several months, it became very clear that we needed to go beyond a partnership and truly bring Flattr into the eyeo family,” said Eyeo founder Till Faida. “This allows us to go that extra mile and finalize our vision of enabling hundreds of millions of users to choose how they want to pay for the content they consume. This is a game-changer."
Faida said the new tool would be the most user friendly online payment solution and would put users “in control of an internet that is fair and still profitable”.
Flattr co-founder, Peter Sunde, added: “We’re excited to continue our work on the Flattr project to give back control to the users of the internet. They should decide how they want to use the internet and how they want to support the content they enjoy. The internet is a decentralized network with unlimited sources of creativity. This free and open internet needs a payment option that reflects these core values.”
Others have been quick to assert that the new approach lacks foresight.
"While last year’s partnership between Eyeo and Flattr, and now the subsequent acquisition, goes some way to raise awareness of the positive message around content compensation, it doesn’t provide a realistic long-term solution," said Sourcepoint's founder Brian Kane.
“Eyeo’s acquisition of Flattr could be an indication that they realised a purely ad block approach wouldn’t achieve their goal of making the web ‘more fair and less annoying’. But it will remain to be seen if this tip-based system – which removes a publisher’s ability to directly engage with consumers – goes far enough to balance consumer choice with a publisher’s need to generate a sustainable income.
Kane added: "From our conversations, we feel larger publishers may be uncomfortable in engaging in a subscription-orientated business owned by the same party that is distributing ad blocking software.”
The core team of the original Flattr company will continue its operations with all staff members from Malmö, Sweden. Sunde will act as advisor and his co-founder Linus Olsson will continue to head operation and implementation.