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BitPass is a micropayment service that facilitates online content access transactions by integrating the processes involved in buying and selling content, and making it practical to charge very small amounts of money. In the BitPass system, transaction fees are paid by the content provider. For payments under $5., the charge is 15% of the cost. Micropayments are by definition very small sums, so the fee is usually just a few cents. For the content buyer, the BitPass system works similarly to a pre-paid telephone card: you sign up for the service and put money into your account using a credit card or PayPal, which gives you credit towards the purchase of content. When the user agrees to pay the cost of access, their account is charged automatically rather than through a link to an external Web site for payment.

Although the micropayment concept has been proposed for several years, it's been a hard sell. After all, most online content has always been free, and people are naturally opposed to paying for anything they might reasonably expect to get for nothing. However, at least part of the reason that content has been free is likely that no one's found a viable way to get people to pay for it to this point.

This was last updated in September 2005

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