Google has unveiled a project that offers web users the option to pay to visit sites rather than see adverts.
Dubbed Contributor, users can pay a monthly fee of between $1 to $3 for ad-free sites. When those who have paid their subscriptions visit a participating site they will see pixelated patterns replacing the adverts. It has so far signed up a handful of websites, including ScienceDaily and Urban Dictionary, to test the system. Others in the current trial include WikiHow, Mashable and Imgur.
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Access to the service is currently by invitation only and interested websites can sign up to be on the waiting list. Contributor describes itself as "an experiment in additional ways to fund the web". "Today's internet is mostly funded by advertising. But what if there were a way to directly support the people who create the sites you visit each day?" it asks. A portion of the money goes to Google and a portion to the website. Users log into the service via their Google account - which will trigger the ad-free version of sites.
Howard Kingston, co-founder of adludio, a firm which replaces ads with interactive games, thinks current online advertising needs a rebrand. "Advertising, especially online has become a bugbear for many people, but there are new models such as this one, that could change the publisher landscape and how people browse content online," he said. Some websites are already experimenting with paywalls, including the Wall Street Journal and The Times but those sites still show advertising. A service called Readability tried something similar to Contributor but shut down in 2012.
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