Google has launched a micropayments service for purchasing online content. Called Google Wallet for web content, the search giant is describing the new product as an experiment to see if web users would be prepared to pay for individual pages of content if the buying process was sufficiently easy.
Available from October 3, if it proves successful it would no doubt drive users to Google Wallet and therefore mobile payments, but more importantly, it could prove a major step towards finding a payment model for consuming premium web content -- such as video -- that would be simple, affordable and pain-free enough to serve as an alternative to illegal streaming sites, for instance.
That could be a future use. For now, the service is focused on publishing. Businesses that sign up for the experiment will be able to host a Google Wallet banner on their website and sell their content directly to users who already have Google Wallet. And, to make sure that users are not duped into buying something they didn't want, they are given a free sample of the content before agreeing to buy with a single click.
Although the service is designed for selling online content valued at less than $1, Google emphasizes that it takes refunds seriously and if a user is unhappy with the content they have a 30-minute window in which they can click on the instant refund button; their account is then credited and the content returns to its owner.
Otherwise, the content is theirs in perpetuity, or until the website ceases to exist.
Likewise, to make sure that users are honest, the service tracks individual users to make sure they're not simply using the refund option to consume premium content for free.
Peachpit, Dorling Kindersley (DK) and Oxford University Press are among the first companies to sign up to the Google experiment and with the promise of higher search rankings and higher visibility, it hopes to attract many more.