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Why micropayments won't catch on

by Giles Turnbull -- 2001/01/04

Micropayments have been widely predicted to be the future of making online publishing pay. But according to Clay Shirky, they're doomed to fail.

Shirky rightly points out that some of the best-known net.personalities around have predicted that micropayments would come into their own - people like Jakob Nielsen and Nicholas Negroponte.

But those predictions are now out of date. People still aren't using micropayments.

And the reason? Simply, users hate them says Shirky.

Micropayments, meanwhile, waste the users' mental effort in order to conserve cheap resources, by creating many tiny, unpredictable transactions. Micropayments thus create in the mind of the user both anxiety and confusion, characteristics that users have not heretofore been known to actively seek out.

He goes on to argue that the systems we use to pay for things in the real world - including subscriptions for periodicals - will prevail online as well.