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Flattr.com: Interview with the Microdonation Revolutionaries

Frank Ritter
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flattr Logo
flattr is a new web service which aims to revolutionize the world of free content on the web. flattr’s name is a combination of the words “to flatter” and “flatrate”. The service is based on the idea to show some appreciation for the free content others are providing on the net, like blog entries, music, photos, and so on. By simply clicking a button in a digg-like manner, users support those creators with micro-money-transfers. Hinweis: Dieses Interview ist auch auf Deutsch verfügbar.

flattr was co-founded by Peter Sunde, one of the masterminds behind the well known-torrent site “The Pirate Bay”. In a nutshell, flattr's idea reads as follows: Registered users have to pay a monthly fee of at least €2. That enables them to click on flattr buttons, which are already found across the web. At the end of the month the paid fee is divided into equal parts and given to those flattrers whose buttons the user clicked on. By clicking on a flattr button you can show your appreciation and creators of free content get the chance to actually earn something with their creations.
This Video presents the idea in a quick and easy-to-understand way. Flattr is still in closed beta, however, you can sign up for an invite on flattr’s homepage

We talked to co-founder Linus Olsson about flattrs ideals, its business model, possible cooperations and integrations.

flattr-team

The flattr guys: Let’s change the world

Linus Olsson: “We think that flattr will be the biggest change the internet has seen in the last years”

LoadBlog: Which kind of idea of man or philosophy is the foundation for the idea of flattr?

Olsson: To be bold, we hope that flattr will change everything. We hope to fundamentally change how people think about sharing money on the internet. We hope that people will start to think of sharing money just like we share knowledge, that flattr will be the final and missing, building block that makes the internet economy go full circle and users start_ to “pay“ users for what they do. We don't think people are unwilling to pay for stuff on the internet. We think they will, as long as it is on their terms – not the terms of big companies. We hope (and think) that flattr will be the biggest change the internet has seen in the last years. We do this because we think the internet needs this, people need this and it can change the things for the better. Information should be free, but everyone should also have an easy way of giving something for it if they want to.

LoadBlog: What about competitors with similar concepts, like Kachingle oder PayMeCredit? In which way is your concept different or even better?

Olsson: Flattr was developed without knowledge of either of them, so the thinking is probably different. Flattr is based on the same basic concept as many “like” buttons in use today (like digg, tweetmeme, facebook likes, reddit, etc.). People know how these work and like them. We also treat users the same, there are no separate producer/consumer accounts. Everyone is both (if he or she wants to).

LoadBlog: What is happening with the fees your users are paying, in case they do not flattr during the whole month?

Olsson: The money is given to charity purposes.

LoadBLog: Hypothetical question: Imagine the case that Twitter would cooperate with you and integrates the possibility to flattr single Tweets. How do you cope with the problem that one tweet, maybe invented in five seconds has the same “value” in terms of flattrs like a piece of video or audio, created in days or weeks?

Olsson: It is up to the user who is flattring to decide if the tweet is worth a click. We have made a system that is as effortless to use as possible, a click and you are done. Weighting a click’s value makes it more complex. If users request different features we will make them in the future.

LoadBlog: Do you already have a funding? Are you thinking of integrating ads or how do you think flattr will financially cope in the medium term?

Olsson: We have seed money from investors (who will be presented shortly). We will not use ads, we feel the flattr system should be able to finance itself even in short term is the plan.

LoadBlog: How do you handle Peter’s publicity? Do you actively use it to spread Flattr’s idea or are you trying to avoid it in favor of the idea of the service itself?

Olsson: We use it, as flattr’s ideals and Peter’s go hand in hand.

LoadBlog: Facebook created a lot of buzz recently by introducing their global “Like”-button. Do you think their idea has something in common with flattr’s? Where’s the difference? Would you create a Facebook application which is capable of “converting” Facebook Likes into flattrs?

Olsson: As always, several internet services are alike. There are systems developed right now (not by us) to make that kind of integration possible. We want to use/implement everything that makes people use flattr more. No one knows what the future hold, but we will not exclude, we are trying to include.

LoadBlog: Can you give our readers a brief overview into your roadmap? When are you planning to release Flattr to the general public? Will there be other language versions? Are there concrete plans to cooperate with services like Jamendo, Mininova and so on?

Olsson: The roadmap right now is to get everything in place for a public release. Then we will look into more features, payment providers, APIs and partners. Languages are also on the list somewhere. Exactly what is planned and in what order is kind of a secret. You know how it is.

LoadBlog: Linus, thank you for the talk!

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