Thoughts on Coil
coil.com is the premiere (and currently only) Web Monetization Provider. Web Monetization is a really neat idea where content creators can simply add a tag to their website and users can send payments (using Interledger Payments) to that creator. By using a browser or browser extension that natively supports Web Monetization this can be done automatically, and with minimal ongoing effort the user is supporting the sites that they visit! In return the website can do the user favours such as disabling ads or allowing access to premium content.
<!-- Just add a payment pointer in a meta tag to recieve payments -->
<meta name=monetization content=$ilp.uphold.com/Di6QX6ga4Uje>
I think that Web Monetization is a great idea, and support is slowly growing (in a large part due to Coil’s efforts). However, I am not very impressed with the provider implementation that Coil offers.
How Coil Works
The primary method of using Coil is a browser extension on desktop. There is also a mobile browser that supports Coil natively. When you sign up for a 5 USD/month subscription Coil will then automatically send payments to sites that you visit.
The nice thing about this is that it is simple and seamless. You just sign up for the subscription, install the extension and go. You get a subtle indication when the extension is sending payments and that is about it.
Fixed Monthly Subscription
There is no option to choose your tier. What if I want to send more to the creators I like? It is currently locked at $5/month. I guess this is good for simplicity but locking out the whales doesn’t seem ideal.
No Tipping Support
I would like to see a “tip” option to provide a boost to creators and content that I really like.
Fixed Payment Rate
There is no option for the creators to request a level of support. This means that each creator has to decide what features to provide as a binary decision. There no option for requesting a higher tier of support in exchange for even more features. This is venturing into micropayments territory and maybe is best handled by a different system but the line between the two is very blurred.
The upside is that we don’t see websites requesting more and more just because they can. However how will this work when a new Provider enters the scene? If the new provider pays less will sites accept them anyways and it becomes a race to the bottom for providers paying less. If the new provider pays more will sites stop providing benefits to Coil users? The worst case is the most likely, different websites will provide different features and the user experience will be confusing and frustrating.
This isn’t an issue for passive contributions, but once the websites start offering premium features to supporters the situation gets complicated quickly.
How Much of the Subscription Goes to Creators?
The Coil help says that the amount paid starts at $0.36 USD/h and tapers off after you have spent $4.50. It also says that Coil will continue paying after you spend your full $5. I guess the expectation is that most users don’t spend all of their budget and Coil uses the unused budget to fund the over-budget users while pocketing the difference? I would like to see a proper description of Coil’s business model.
If Coil continues the current strategy of paying sites for the entire month then they must decrease the base rate as more sites start supporting Web Monetization, otherwise your budget would run out much faster and Coil would end up paying out of their own pocket. This will reduce the profit per user, which reduces the amount that publishers receive for benefits such as disabling ads. While the total income for sites may stay the same (if Coil increases subscribers at a similar rate) the lower per-user value makes it harder to justify the incentives (you will be showing fewer ads while not making any more money from Web Monetization).
Not only does the extension require access to all sites (for reading the meta tag and informing the site that a payment was made) it sends a lot of information to Coil.
- Payment Pointers: Since most sites use a constant payment pointer it is fairly easy to map this back to a site. A solution would be randomly generating the payment pointer for each user however this is incompatible with static sites and no ILP wallet providers appear to support dynamically generating payment pointers.
- Twitch and YouTube URLs: Instead of using Web Monetization Coil has custom integrations to Twitch and YouTube. This involves sending every Twitch Channel and YouTube Video that you watch to Coil’s servers along with how long you watch for. The YouTube integration is especially invasive, if Web Monetization was supported by YouTube natively Coil would at least only learn the channel.
No Control Over Who You Pay
While I like the idea of paying by default—especially if I get some benefits automatically—there are some sites that I regularly link to or that have enough obtrusive ads (that don’t go away when paying with Web Monetization) that I don’t think they deserve any more money. I would like the ability to blacklist individual sites.
Minimal Mobile Support
There is no extension for Android Firefox (although that is mostly Mozilla’s fault at this point) so the only option on mobile is the Puma Browser. However, it doesn’t seem to have any other compelling features so I’m not giving up syncing and extensions just to spend money. I get that the mobile landscape isn’t very open to extensions but since mobile is now the predominant source of web traffic this is a serious issue with Coil.