July 13, 2001
7:28 AM   Subscribe

The end is neigh. This wonderful little company is just about to unleash an ISP filter system that will allow content providers to decide which users get access, namely, those who have paid them a fee. Your ISP will soon have to pay individual fees to offer you anything. Your rate will go way up, your choices will go way down. Web surfing as we know it, is dying. Check the Slashdot freak-out.
posted by dong_resin (23 comments total)
I linked to the slashdot front page.
This is the story thread.
posted by dong_resin at 7:30 AM on July 13, 2001

The end is neigh? Wilburrrr!
posted by pracowity at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2001

Oh, shut up.
posted by dong_resin at 7:35 AM on July 13, 2001

posted by pracowity at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2001

How is this an innovation? Couldn't content providers have instituted this a long time ago? I know jack about back-end stuff, but it seems to me that we already have enough IP tracking ability to do what this company is suggesting.
posted by starvingartist at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2001

i don't think this will be a big deal. or, at least, it doesn't have to be. i mean, if cnn institutes such a system, then i'll just wait till i get home and have a chance to watch the 10 o'clock news to get my news of the day. i'm not sure how many original content authors (people like mschmidt, toke, and per from k10k or paul from ftrain) would try to institute such a system for themselves, either--and i see original content being the area that would most benefit from being able to collect fees of this type. though how such original content would gain readership is a problem. so i dunno.
posted by moz at 7:49 AM on July 13, 2001

Didn't MTV try this a few years ago (right after they took back mtv.com from Adam Curry)?
posted by agaffin at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2001

This looks more like the end of any content provider that tries to charge for their content this way and shuts out the bulk of their potential audience.
posted by harmful at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2001

I would expect that IP filtering could take care of this, and I am sure that is central to the software TRIC has developed. This is, I think, a non-story. AOL has been making deals for "exclusive" content for years through their proprietary system; ISP @Home has tried the same thing and found its audience, which is more Web-savvy then the AOL crowd, didn't care.
posted by tranquileye at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2001

Why do we need the ISPs to get in on this act at all? If people aren't willing to deal with micropayments on a site-by-site basis, couldn't some third parties form to provide bundles or even more customized packages of sites on terms in negotiates with content providers? That way ISPs could stay plain old ISPs and we wouldn't have to deal with all this.

Content provider such as salon says, "you know what, we just can't survive this way. We need to charge." But they can't get people to pay individually. They go to another company and say, "hey, add us to your list, pay us X per subscriber". This company already has the infrastructure to manage all of this, and the marginal cost of adding salon is near zero. If I want salon and I don't want to pay them, I can add them to my account at the Third Party. I don't really love the arrangement, but wouldn't it be better and easier than this?
posted by jeb at 8:00 AM on July 13, 2001

The fact of the matter is that unless you provide something unique, and people can't get your stuff or similar stuff any other way, you can't charge for it because people will just go elsewhere. *shrug*

I doubt it will happen. I think a couple of content providers will try it, and they'll figure out it doesn't work when they see their traffic go waaaaaaay down, because everyone goes elsewhere. The ISP business is so cut-throat and the margins are so slim that I highly doubt that ISPs will pay any more, and users jump ISPs whenever rates go up at all.

The only pay-for-content model that I've ever seen work really well is Pud's over at F!@#$ed company.
posted by SpecialK at 8:35 AM on July 13, 2001

The big deal is, this is the start of the net becoming something resembling cable television, where you pay for content you don't want, have to pay extra to get content you do, and what is available to you is largely based on the lowest common denominator.

Say you want to see Metafilter, and Earthlink, your ISP, doesn't find it large enough to merit paying the fee to offer it, but AOL does. Matt, having to eat, goes with AOL. You then need AOL to get the site you want. With both sites passing the cost on over to you, their prices, even for simple dial-up, could resemble what cable companies charge. AOL, may be particularly expensive because of all the wrestling sites it has to offer, regardless of whether you like wrestling or not. How bad do you want MetaFilter if you're otherwise happy or stuck with your current ISP?

You know how frustrating it is that you have to pay out the ass just to get the Lifetime, Animal Planet, and Food networks with your cable package so you can watch the Simpsons and maybe the Daily Show?
Apply that to everything you get on the web. It's media consolidation, on a grand scale.

Jeb, if your ISP doesn't pay what the Third Party wants to charge for access, you don't get the content.
posted by dong_resin at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2001

d_r -, what I meant is that the users would pay the Third Party and the Third Parties would compete, independently of the ISPs for users and for content streams. Don't get me wrong, I'm not excited about this either, but it seems like a better way than what is suggested above. So I'd use ThirdPartyA and there'd also be a ThirdPartyB. Certainly, there are some exclusive deals, but in general, my guess is that a site could have as many deals with ThirdPartys as it wants, you know, A will pay better but won't deliver user demographic stats for supplementary ad placement, B pays less but gives a better user breakdown.

For us, we're like, well, A is cheaper per-site but has no customization and minimal service. B lets me pick and choose infinitely but costs a little more.

Unlike cable or the phone, which has a costly physical component to it that gives rise to monopolistic pricing schemes, there is no reason why this system couldn't be competitive. Tying it to the ISP reduces competition and everyone loses.
posted by jeb at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2001

Hey, dong, what's your beef with Animal Planet? Seriously.

There aren't enough sites that provide excellent content on a daily basis for me to pay a third party for; I'd pay for MeFi and Salon, and that would be it. I doubt BBC News Online needs to go the pay route.

And no site is worth switching ISPs for in the tric example, if you've found an ISP that you're absolutely happy with otherwise. No site. Not one.
posted by lia at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2001

I don't know if I like this particular method, but it would be nice if there was some way to get isps to split their fees with content providers...
posted by owillis at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2001

Didn't MTV try this a few years ago (right after they took back mtv.com from Adam Curry)?

They certainly did. They announced it, several online outlets ran the story, and no one ever heard about it ever again. I suspect that will happen in this case as well.

And no site is worth switching ISPs for in the tric example

If my ISP didn't carry Amazon, Netflix, Google, or Yahoo, I would think pretty hard about switching.
posted by jkottke at 9:23 AM on July 13, 2001

SpecialK, I hope you're right, as this is freaking me out a bit.

Jeb, maybe I don't understand, but wouldn't you need your ISP to connect to the third party? Your ISP, established, big, and powerful can simply decide which Third Parties to deal with. Pretty much the same situation arises.

I don't have a beef with the animal planet, I just resent paying for it when I don't want it.
Well, that, and you never get to see Steve Irwin's sister take her top off.

I think some of you guys aren't seeing the big, paranoid picture here. I know it's Slashdot and all, but they do offer a pretty informative thread on all this. Seriously, go read it.
Maybe I'm being paranoid, but this seems like the END to me.

By the way, I swear to god I'm going to shit in a box and mail it to the next one of you monkeys that emails me with the proper spelling of "nigh".
posted by dong_resin at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2001

d_r - The way I see it, you don't need the ISP to have any special relationships. In a paranoid sense, they could block you from accessing non-approved ones, but I doubt they would last long doing that.

I see the Third Party as being like any normal website. I go to salon, if I don't have a non-expired cookie on my machine I get a log in screen when I try to access premium content. I select the name of my TP from the drop-box of enrolled TPs, then I enter my user/pass and click submit. Salon.com connects to my TP and my TP validates that I have paid for this content. Then salon grants me access to the rest of the site.

Better yet, I'd just log into the TP and each content site would use a public key arrangement to validate that I was considered OK by the TP, that way they never have to see my password and I don't have to trust anyone else. This brings security into one place, makes it easy to deal with breaces in that all accounts are turned off till I change p-words, and reduces admin and security overhead at member sites. Ideally, the world would standardize one one mechanism by which this occurs so that it would be easy to have relationships with any number of TPs for a given content provider.

This would also put the TPs in a perfect position to roll out micropayments for web resources on which they are appropriate, since they already have a billing infrastructure, and all this gear for validation.
posted by jeb at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2001

There are already a lot of academic sites using methods similar to this, for instance project muse has thousands of academic articles available, but to access them I have to go through my university's proxy because they only allowed access from places that have payed a large fee.

Actually, there are a whole lot of sites like that, that can only be accessed from institutions that have payed a large fee. A while ago I logged on to a site and downloaded a crapload of 18th century etexts. I'll be uploading them to freenet soon.
posted by swipe66 at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2001

If the Third Parties are just charging for what the banner-riddeen crap they offer now, then this scheme stinks. And it won't work. But you're missing that this financing would create new content, much better content than advertising or donations can support.

I pay $10 a month for Morningstar's stock informatioin. If my ISP was able to provide that, and only had to bump my premium up a $1, or none at all, I'd be saving money. I pay $100 something a year for the Wall Street Journal. If they included WSJ.com, I'd gladly take a $5 increase on my per month rate.

I say let the free market work here.
posted by brucec at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2001

"Say you want to see Metafilter, and Earthlink, your ISP, doesn't find it large enough to merit paying
the fee to offer it, but AOL does. Matt, having to eat, goes with AOL. You then need AOL to get the
site you want. "

How does Matt eat now? Why would this arrangement force sites that do not have advertising to suddenly charge ISPs. I think there would still be a number of free sites. If Amazon or Yahoo charged, they would cut down thier sales/eyballs. And yes, if Matt decides to charge, he would cut down on his membership.
posted by brucec at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2001

By "having to eat" I meant "making some money from his work", as he would eventually need to do if the overall cost of getting on the internet went up, which it inevitably would from what ISPs would start to charge the individual to cover the new fees they're paying to get content .
posted by dong_resin at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2001

Lawsuit waiting to happen. A case against an ISP would have far greater merit than the ones lobbed at MAPS.
posted by fooljay at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2001

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