BitPay, the Bitcoin payment processor, has created a pay wall called BitMonet that will allow publishers to charge for access to their digital content via a number of models.
The BitMonet project was first conceptualized at a Bitcoin conference in May, and realization took only four months.
The difference between BitMonet and other microtransaction gateways such as Coinbox.me or Coinbase’s service is that it focuses specifically on publishers.
Pay walls have been historically difficult for end users and publishers alike because they come with awkward signup forms and expensive commission structures that limit micropayments.
Bitcoin payments, on the other hand, feature negligible transaction costs and no need to sign up anywhere. BitMonet, for its part, will charge zero transaction fees.
That script will let publishers create links so users an access content behind the pay wall. The pay wall itself will manifest as a box offering payment options on a per-article basis, for an hour or for a full day of access. When a user clicks any of those options, a Bitcoin payment window pops up.
Future developments planned include a WordPress plugin.
BitMonet is completely open source, so users are free to change or modify the software as they see fit.
It is not clear, though, whether Bitcoin microtransactions at scale will impact the block chain. This is what happened with gamblers who use Bitcoin. One option BitMonet’s developers have suggested is bundling transactions before broadcasting them to the block chain.
Two key problems exist for BitMonet. First, it’s not clear how willing users are to pay for content. Sure, it works for the New York Times, but niche publishers might have trouble charging per story or per hour. Second, Bitcoin does not support recurring payments at the moment, so subscription models are limited for now.
UPDATE: Since BitMonet’s launch, new functions have been added that may address some concerns.
First, publishers can add an option at the Bitcoin payment screen for users to pay for an article with a tweet.
Second, to overcome the subscription problem, BitMonet allows publishers to accept credit card payments for more expensive transactions.