One of the new things you might have seen on ArcticStartup in the last couple of months is the Flattr button. It’s just to the right of this text, you should click it. Ok… read the article first. We’ve covered them plenty of times in the past, but if you haven’t seen our past coverage, they’re sort of like a Facebook “like” button, but with real money moving on the button click. We like them because they help monetize content on the web – something we’ve learned is a little difficult to do.
Malmö-based Flattr’s model hasn’t become the silver bullet for us, but it’s been fun to experiment with. Their model – updated today – makes it as easy as possible to facilitate micropayments with the smallest mental friction. The way it works is users pick a monthly payment into their Flattr account, which becomes the total they can spend. Then, as they browse the web, they can click Flattr buttons (and now basically anything) to send money over to the content creators. At the end of the month, their cash reserve is split equally over all the buttons they’ve hit.
So if someone puts €5 a month in their Flattr account and only hits 5 Flattr buttons, then each person is getting a euro. Your mileage may vary, but more realistically you’re getting much less for each Flattr. But the logic is that many streams join to form a mighty river, as long as your’re producing the content to make it rain (that was deep on so many levels).
Right. Well today they’ve updated their model in a way that might make them the de-facto micropayment facilitator on the web, by opening it up to allow you to Flattr anyone through other websites’ liking, hearting, or favoriting methods. To put it simply, that Instagram double-tap could have a small amount of money tied to it.
Today these platforms include Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Github, Flicr, Vimeo, 500px and App.net, and they say others are soon to come.
“Our vision has always been to bridge the gap between consuming content and supporting it. Now we can just favorite a tweet and part of my monthly Flattr budget will go to that tweeter,” said Linus Olsson the CEO and Co-founder.
It’s been a while since I’ve read the hacker bible, Founders at Work, but this seems similar to a strategy Paypal employed in the early days. The story goes that back in the day there wasn’t a dominant platform to pay people over the web, so PayPal basically allowed you to send money to anyone. Sellers might have said they take only a certain payment platform, but if buyers responded that money was waiting in their (unopened) Paypal account, then sellers would move over to accepting Paypal pretty quickly.
Now that nearly anything can be Flattrd, I’m curious how this is going to change the way users interact with the platform. It should broaden its appeal to create accounts, but I wonder if this will translate into people putting more real money into their Flattr account.