Over lunch, I came up with a potentially new funding model for software.
It allows payment to the software creator(s), and keeps it optionally 'free' (as in beer) to the end user, yet ditches the whole Ad subsidy or traditional micro payment model to provide on-going payment and increase compensation opportunities.
With out any more adieu, here it is:
When the programmer writes their app/software/plug-in, they add a Bitcoin (or equiv.) miner to their software. On initial use, it calibrates itself and begins mining at a low background rate to cover what the expected app cost of a year of 'typical' use.
i.e. If the app normally sold for $5, it should generate about $5 of bitcoin over a year.
Essentially we are converting client CPU, power, and usage into money for the author.
e.g. The AdBlockerPlus plug-in might expect to be 'running' for say, 1/5th of a year of screen time. The author & program tunes it to generate (probabilistically, you can never tell with bitcoin etc.) about $5 over a year or enough to 'tax' the system and incentivize the user to fork cash over. That's fairly low grade CPU usage, and tada. The author gets paid automatically either way.
Ideally, a software package can offer a 'buy me option', using the above example. The author might choose to say, "Look, pay me $5 and I sell you the "pro" version which doesn't have the miner in it."
It's an indirect micro payment system, that needs no accounting and no middleman.
The money is ultimately coming from an increased power bill due to more CPU usage etc. So the client is ultimately paying. Money isn't being made from nothing. It may cost the client more than $5 to generate/donate $5s worth of cpu/mining resources. That's on the clients head. If they have a problem, they can not use it, or buy it outright etc. In a sense, its an almost-free painless fair software leasing scheme.
* Authors of freeware can earn money without the client paying directly.
* The client doesn't need a credit card or account, or sign up to any service if they don't want to. They have already paid for their device, and already have a relationship with a utility company for power.
* Reduces the friction of the end user giving 'payment' to the author.
* The end user can be a child, as there is no financial agreement etc. thus legal issues shouldn't be a problem.
* The CPU overhead should be small.
* It allows end users to pay for only what they use. (If you use the app once or twice, you pay for appropriate usage of the app.)
* The end user doesn't have to have the cash all up front.
* If the author wants, they can have the app automatically turn off the miner when it reaches the 'price' they want.
* It automatically favors popular and commonly used apps.
* Authors don't miss out on unlicensed use of their software.
* It gives OpenSource a way of monetizing its self if it wants to and still be completely 'free'.
* It could easily replace "ads" in apps. No more ads is good IMHO.
* End users can be completely anonymous to the author.
* Users can trial full software without any limitations. The author gets paid if they use it. It may only be a fraction of what they ask for, but they get something. i.e. Companies/Individuals can evaluate software, and the author gets paid. The user doesn't have to commit to the software if they don't want.
* Normal system performance tools/power & battery usage tools let a user know how much of a hit their 'free' program is proportionally costing them.
* Users will pay for the 'pro' version if they are concerned about the performance of their machine/phone/tablet. Incentive++.
* It promotes 'better' or more user desirable apps. i.e. The author gets paid the more the user uses their software or has it open.
* There can be competition between authors of 'free' software. i.e. I do the same thing but mine a wee bit less than my competition etc.
* Authors are driven to write more efficient & better code, as users will 'compare' based on CPU/Power usage in addition to other things.
* Users and parents will know if Lil' Jimmy is running up a big bill, or they are effectively capped. e.g. Jimmy's phone is running very hot, and he's like having to charge it every 30 mins. Or his bedroom computer is running very slow. Something is probably wrong.
* This doesn't preclude any of the existing payment/purchasing models.
* The author doesn't have to have an account/payment system with a 'software store' service.
* The author can't have their account 'frozen' due to a breach of policy with a 'software store' and lose their money from sales.
* If an author tries to milk it for all it's worth, mining as much as they can, the user is going to notice and shut down the CPU hungry/power app.
Problems I've thought of so far:
* Sure, the miner could be disabled/hacked out, but that's the equivalent of software piracy/cracking we have now. This is not trying to solve that problem. That will still happen, it will always still happen.
* Hacked versions of apps could be mining coins for others without the authors consent or the users knowledge. This happens effectively now though too, by people downloading special versions from dodgy sites.
* All the problems of Bitcoin/digital currencies. Money audit trails (think tax) become difficult. Money transits countries and jurisdictions without any controls. [Honestly, Boo fecking hoo.] However, you could be funding N. Korea running some crazy app you downloaded. Caveat emptor.
* You can't be really sure where your 'free' money is being sent. (See above)
* Running modern software running on old hardware is going to run very very slow. Due to the cost of mining the $5 etc, not the speed of the code.
Thus I put this idea out into the world, please tear it down where you see faults in it, but I hope it could become an alternative funding system for software authors.