Blog Post

Zombie knocked out by a money bag

JavaScript Monetization API: How to Fund your Human Resistance Cell after the Apocalypse – Part 1

Editor’s Note: Since this book was originally written Coil has stopped operations, which has put implementation of this on hold. That said, the content here should be accurate if/when another company takes up Coil’s mantle.

Important Notes

Full disclosure: The author received a grant to support the writing of this book, as well as two other JavaScript books, from Grant for the Web, among whose major contributors is Coil (which as of 8/21 is the only web monetization provider available). Neither Grant for the Web nor Coil nor any of their members, employees, collaborators, program team, or anyone else had any say in the content or editing of this book. Basically the author wrote it, his normal editor edited it and the author deserves all praise, blame, and accountability for its contents.

**It’s important to note that the monetization specification, while available and working, is still in flux and may change from what’s laid out here. The specification seems to be mature enough that little is likely to change in the JavaScript API, even if there are some changes under the hood. That said, there are no guarantees. I will try to keep this book as up-to-date as possible.

Like a Zombie Nerd Sitting at the Cool Horde’s Table: Value Exchange

The technology underlying web monetization is a value-exchange system called the Interledger Protocol. It allows for the exchange of money in any currency with anyone with an account. Its error correction and process reminds me of TCP/IP: Packets of information are exchanged across a network. Each packet may take a different route to the final destination, but they all come together and reconstitute the full message (value exchange) at the destination. That’s about all you need to know about the underlying Interledger Protocol, but you can read more about it at

What Is Web Monetization?

Traditionally, web business models have followed the TV business models like a horde through a bottleneck. I’m sure you’re familiar with ad-sponsored sites, subscription sites, and purchase/merchandise supported sites. There are a few problems with these models—problems that web monetization seeks to fix. So, before we talk about how or why monetization seeks to fix these issues, let’s discuss the current models for supporting websites.

Ad-supported sites can find themselves between a horde and a hard place. The desires of the user and the desires of the advertiser are often at odds. Users often hate and/or ignore ads, so advertisers push for more invasive ways to share them in order to get more for their money. This makes users hate advertising even more. If the site owner sides with either the user or the advertiser, the other party may leave altogether, and then the site can’t support itself.

There’s an apocalyptic host of other issues with advertising-based sites as well. A third party usually serves the ads, and ad networks are notorious for slowing down sites. The ads may also make the content of the site seem less reputable. Many highly regarded news channels still have links to articles like “One Weird Trick to Stop the Apocalypse” and “Forty-Seven Ways to Know if Your Wife Is Cheating on You with a Zombie.”

In addition, ad networks are often seen as the robber barons of our social media age. Despite what you may think, Google and Facebook are both ad companies. They became the behemoths they are because they are good at sending you ads. (This wasn’t the original intent of either service. They had to be good at their original service to get where they are, but the way they have stayed there and diversified in so many ways is through the revenue generated by ad sales.)

Subscription sites require user buy-in. Many news services have gone in this direction, either by placing all of their content behind a paywall or by giving you a certain number of free articles per month (often showing ads to users who aren’t subscribers and removing them as an incentive to become subscribers).

The upsides to this model are that if you have a horde of rabid fans, it can generate lucrative, consistent income and it can be an exceptional experience for subscribed users. The downside is that nonsubscribers, particularly those who haven’t heard of your site, need to know you in order to value your content and be willing to pay you. They can’t know you, though, without seeing your content. If they get all of your content for free, they may not see the value in getting a subscription. “Why buy the zombie if you get the contagion for free?” Right?

This model is new, and many users still expect content on the internet to be free. This can cause frustration and annoyance when the one article they wanted to read isn’t available to them and may put a foul taste in their mouths (like when a zombie horde breaks wind). If you serve ads to nonsubscribers, they may still have to deal with the same downsides of ads as with ad-supported sites. Having a set number of free articles per month can help with user frustration, but the reminders/countdowns are often intrusive and annoying (when the users reach their limit). Plus, users can often circumvent the technology simply by clearing their browser cache or using a different browser.

To Be Continued