One thing that we have been discussing back and forth since we started our company is if “flattring” is a payment or a donation. I don’t think we’ve come to an agreement or decision, or if we ever really will, even though we say “payment” on our website.
One day people will of course call it a “flattr” but until then, here are my thoughts about one and the other.
What’s a donation
A donation should by definition be “gifts given without return consideration”. So you don’t have a say what the money should be used for. Or that it was made for certain reason or specific goal. You’re also not entitled to get anything in return.
What’s a payment
Here’s the definition: “A payment is made in exchange for goods, services, or to fulfill a legal obligation.” This means that a payment gives you the right to something and or you can demand that something happens, something is sent to you or someone does something.
This quickly at the problems with a “flattr” – it lands somewhere in between the two. Here are only some some of the arguments for the different sides we’ve heard so far.
Flattr is a donation because:
* You give without expecting anything in return.
* You can’t demand to get anything because of your flattr.
* You would have gotten whatever you got even without flattring.
Flattr is a payment because:
* You get something in return. You wouldn’t flattr without getting this “something”.
* You flattr a specific piece of content.
* The receiver knows why they got the flattr.
So why did we choose to call Flattr a “payment”? It’s simple really, and comes down to two arguments.
1. You pay for a reason. “I give you money because you have done this.” We don’t think paying before or after you got this something makes a difference, that is more of a question of how the internet works.
2. We want to change how people think about payments. A payment for digital content can not be done on the old premises of physical goods.
We know the word “payment” will be tough for some to swallow as the usual expectation is that you get something after you make the payment – a link to something you can download, something you can print out, something you can put on your eBook or software you can launch.
In our case you “pay for free” meaning that you already got what you pay for, the free content. And you pay because you feel it had value for you, because the author and the content was awesome!
This will not end here, in the next blog post I will elaborate on “Why payments for digital goods can’t follow the same rules as payments for physical things”