By: Sorab Ghaswalla
Last week when I signed up with a new online forum, a community that supports anything open-source, I was struck by the number of startups that were hawking payment systems for content. From micropayment processes to digital wallets to payment in cryptocurrencies, these new companies are focused on ensuring that content providers, especially freelancers, get their due in monetary terms for their labor of love.
Just a few years ago, it was rare to find a startup working on a content payment solution. For painters, writers, vloggers, journalists and all those who make up the content providers’ community, this is good news. It was a long time coming.
I also came across another interesting fact. Did you know that there’s an HTTP 402 error? It crops up when your online subscription to a service has expired, but for now, it is designated a “nonstandard client error status response code that is reserved for future use.”
Not seen HTTP 402 ever? That only underlines how 99% (approx.) of online content is free and does not come with a paywall. When the father of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee set up the Web, along with errors like 404, 403, he had also introduced HTTP 402. Clearly, Mr Berners-Lee and his team envisaged that those surfing online would be required to pay for content. Unfortunately, as we now know, things went the other way. Almost all content is available free. That explains why you have never seen a 402 error during your online sojourn. (BTW, you are still reading a free version of this newsletter.)
From HTTP 402 in the late 90s to the concerted efforts by the online community in 2018-19 to ensure content providers get paid; it’s been a two decades long journey.
Never have so many owed so few so much for so long (with due apology to the late Mr Winston Churchill).
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