I want to bring to the discussion the experiment I’ve been keeping in mind for a long time, but only with Status it seems possible to be implemented. The idea is simple:
Recepient puts a price tag on incoming messages.
Basically, you’re selling your attention. If someone wants you to read their message and distract, they pay. The price can be dynamic and vary depending on the sender’s identity or your mood, it can also be per message or per thread.
Before you dismiss this as a silly idea, let me explain the problem it solves and why I think Status is a good fit for this experiment.
- It solves the attention deficit problem we all experience in the online world. Tons of literature, articles and books are written about this problem, and the term “digital detoxication” is widely used now to bring awareness to the masses. The amount of incoming notifications and useless messages is insane, and part of the problem is that it’s super cheap to send messages - we basically built a system for free mass distraction. The price tag on your attention is likely to decrease the number of useless messages and economically compensate harm done by spammers or assholes on the internet.
- The user in the Status messaging has both communication and wallet virtually for free. Adding micropayment to read a message is already technically possible. Whisper design is not particularly optimal for this (you’ll have to decrypt messages first, to even understand that you’re intended recipient), but that’s fine. Attention price tag can be implemented as the Status chat protocol and UI optional feature. The fundamental components to make it work are already in the Status design.
- As far as I’m aware, this has never been implemented before on the large scale. This is uncharted and unexplored territory, that involves social interaction, economic incentives and solving real-world problems using cryptoeconomy – everything we love in one package.
- This idea is more suitable for the low-traffic communication, like email messaging, rather than IM. But we can explore different options for charging sender – per message, per thread, per N messages, etc. Also, I think Status can be a good solution for people who need secure dark email service, but don’t trust any of classic SMTP-based solutions, so there is some market here.
- It seems unlikely to me that people will not accept the idea of paying for sending a message – as most of us are both receivers and senders at the same time, so ingress/egress flow of payments should be balanced over time, and there is an incentive to make it balanced. Spam, after all, in a nutshell is exactly this: sending/receiving asymmetry. It’s a good use for SNT as well, and I believe people who already have SNT will want to play with this feature.
The major problem I see here is micropayments – which are not yet a commonly used thing – and current block mining latency may limit severely applicability of this for instant messaging. But I also believe even in the current setup, it’s worth exploring.
This is potentially a social interaction changing experiment, and, even if failed, should be a good source of behavioral and economic lessons to learn from.