Micropayments for Web Pages

Social commentary:

Before I describe a micro-payment scheme, let me say that micropayments for accessing web pages are not needed. The only people it helps are those with popular sites, and they already have advertisers paying all their maintenance costs. The readers pay indirectly with their time by reading the advertisements.

Micropayments would raise monthly access fees for normal readers twice, once to pay for the sites they are reading, once to pay for the overhead of micropayments. Costs are already high. Half my relatives who used to have internet access no longer do because the monthly costs were too high. On the other hand, micropayments could make it profitable to have a popular site, and it could reduce web advertising.

Overview of the scheme, the main ideas:

Alice wants to read Bob's web site, and both have bank accounts (and share secret keys) with Tom. Tom gives Bob a set of hashes of keys, for which Alice has the keys. Alice pays by providing Bob the keys to match his hash values. The (key, hash) pairs form an exponential set of coins, each worth twice as much as the previous coin. At the end of the day, Bob reports to Tom how much Alice owes him, and turns in his highest complete (key,hash) pair (which is worth even more) as proof. If Bob wants to cheat, the (key,hash) pair is worth at most twice what Alice really owes, so he can't cheat much. I assume that hyperlinks give the cost of what they link to.

Example transaction:

References: The web commerce page, DEC's Millicent, MIT's Kerberos, IBM's iKP, CMU's NetBill, MicroMINT, PayWord. MicroMINT is worth looking at, if only for its sheer wierdness.

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Hash Functions and Block Ciphers
Ms Lucy Had a Boyfriend
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