How We Fund the Web Ecosystem

12 March 2024


andreubotella, bkardell_, Coralie, cwilso, David_Justice, dbaron, Deyan_Ginev, Don_Marti, emeyer, Florian_Scholz, Ian, James_Aylett, Jeffrey_Yasskin, LUke_Warlow, matatk, Michael_Kleber, Ondrej_Pokorny, plh, Rick_Byers, robin, Seth_Dobbs
Brian Kardell, Eric Meyer, Robin Berjon
emeyer, koalie

Meeting minutes

<bkardell_> hola

Howdy howdy howdy.

Have we invited Zakim yet?

<koalie> yep

Thank you!

<robin> hullo!

<koalie> not sure we've instructed the bots; checking

<robin> is everyone READY TO GET RICH QUICK!!!???

<koalie> yep

<koalie> sorry, YEP!

<koalie> (my "yep" was in response to have we instructed the bots)

<robin> do consider people's mental health before speaking up though

Pick a scribe

<matatk> CEPC: https://www.w3.org/policies/code-of-conduct/

<Ian> EricM volunteers

<matatk> Antitrust policy: https://www.w3.org/policies/antitrust-2024/

Reminders: code of conduct, health policies, recorded session policy

<Ian> (See above)

Goal of this session

scribenick emeyer

Thanks, dbaron. I always get the syntax slightly wrong.

bkardell_ (delivers short presentation; slides: https://github.com/w3c/breakouts-day-2024/files/14578466/How_We_Fund_The_Web.pdf)

robin (delivers second half of the presentation)

bkardell_: (opens queue)

bkardell_: There are things like collectives available already

bkardell_: Igalia do a lot of helping with prioritization management and figuring out how to get work done on things that aren’t prioritized by vendors
… collectives don’t provide all the needed funding, so how do we get there?

Ian: Could you share an example of how a thing has happened?

<bkardell_> https://opencollective.com/mathml-core-support

bkardell_: You can set these up however you want, but most elect their own steering committees
… It’s pretty easy to set up
… a collective and start colelcting omney toward a goal
… The trick is a way of governing the money and how it’s sent out
… It’s really hard to incentivize people to contribute
… Could be done as one big fund, a lot of small funds

<robin> here's a strategy for bigger levels (draft) https://darobin.github.io/wise/

rbyers: Could you say a little about how CSS Grid was funded?

bkardell_: Sure; Bloomberg Tech funded Igalia to implement Grid in two browsers
… It’s not the only example like that, but it’s one of the big ones
… It does show how browser makers aren’t the only ones to fund development
… We need omre ways to get people to see that important work can get done, you just have to invest time and/or money to make it happen

rbyers: Speaking as a citizen of the web and not my employer, I’ve been trying to tackle this for at least Chromium
… Maybe we want to talk about the forces that pressure toward monoculture
… I’m worried about other browsers’ abilities to be viable long-term
… I think most people on the Chromium team want to see other browsers succeed
… When we make Google products fast, and encourage businesses to put better content on the web, that helps fund Chrome
… Default search is an important part of this
… Chromium was always there to spur competition, it was never our intent to take over the ecosystem
… One thing we’re doing is starting a Chromium commons fund
… A lot of us here agree that it’s not good to have everything funded by Google
… We have some investors willing to put in non-trivial amounts of money
… We’ve been talking about this with others as the lack of diversity in funding sources is not good for the long-term health of the ecosystem

bkardell_: You can’t really use commits to measure contribution, but it is a measure we have

andreubotella: In terms of the projects Igalia works on, it seems like there are projects funded by browser makers
… The money from those organizations seems to come mostly from search revenue
… Maybe not as much at Apple, hard to say

<rbyers> FYI Chromium commits by organization over time: https://chrome-commit-tracker.arthursonzogni.com/organizations/commits/?repositories=chromium&organizations=AMD,ARM,Apple,Google,Igalia,Individuals,Intel,LLVM,Microsoft,Opera,Samsung,Unknown,WebKit&grouping=quarterly&colors=organizations&kind=author&chart=line&dates=2000-01-01,2024-03-12&others

–(missed by the scribe, apologies)
… We have talked in other places about we can have browser charge for usage after so many years of being free
… I don’t think that can happen

<Zakim> robin, you wanted to talk about diversity of funding sources

Andreu_Botella: We could charge by browsers but after years of browsers being free, I'm not sure [it'd work]

robin: RIck brough up an important issue, funding diversity
… It’s worse than most people realize
… Almost all of MOzilla’s money comes from search revenue, Apple gets way more from Google than they put into the browser
… The way search is integrated into browsers is likely to create intervention
… What if it becomes illegal to bind search and payments?
… Shoudl that happen, we’d need to replace a whole lot of money, and could happen overnight
… We do need better and more solutions
… We need to seriously look at taking ownership as a community of the search royalty system
… We’re in charge of infrastructure for 5 billion people; we should act like it
… Please take the extra step of thinking more ambitiously

cwilso: I totally agree with Robin about the world being different 20 years ago
… We shouldn’t expect things to stay static
… The search engine wasn’t the original motivator, it was wanting to be the best connection to a new medium
… The funding from search revenue is positive in that it gets a funding source from the entire web, not just those who choose to donate

<bkardell_> +1

cwilso: The challenge is that we built something like a public utility but it isn’t funded or managed like one, and probably won’t morph that far
… We do need to figure out how to keep the ecosystem healthier than it is
… A diverse ecosystem of engines is important

<Zakim> robin, you wanted to challenge the idea that it shouldn't be a public utility, for some value of "public"

robin: It does start to feel like a public utility if we do it right
… I challenge the idea that it shouldn’t be a public utility
… Utilities worldwide are not always like US utilities
… If you look at rural electrification programs, there are a lot of rural co-ops that are owned by those who use the power
… Those have very interesting qualities
… So we don’t have to think of public utilities as state-owned

<jaylett> (also some rural internet provision)

robin: I think we can start to talk about utilities in a new light

cwilso: Agree with the point that the web should be for the good of the public, not corporations or large donors
… Too often, public value is equated to government control
… I like the example of rural electrification
… I used to live in a place that had water provided that way, and maintaining infrastructure was hard
… The challenge is how we colelct from everyone; we don’t have the example of paying a fee, as to electric or water providers
… Compare to the expansion of connectivity and how that fed into governments

koalie: The mechanisms or paradigm we use is germane to the efforts that died in the context of web monetization
… Web monetization was about funding individual endeavors
… Do we talk about these things individually because they never meet?
… Does what we decide for one use case apply to others?

rbyers: That is a really good point
… I’ve been working on web monetization for some time
… Interledger is experimenting with Igalia, and we’re glad to see that
… I’m skeptical that micropayments will work
… I can imagine a future where there are equivalents to Netflix et. al but are decentralized
… Imagine that there was 4-5 content bundlers, similar to video streaming services
… Can we imagine a web content streamer, such that the content streamers could be incentivized to invest?

bkardell_: A lot of the work Igalia does is for downstream stuff
… Things that use Chromium, WebKit, Gecko, to create products, either physical or software
… What they share in common is those products are bought, people pay for them
… The rrevenue source is from people buying a thing
… The money flows downhill, going back into the platform
… Examples like rural electrification are good; people pay in and get something
… So there needs to be a way for people to pay in
… As Robin says, if we can put a levy on those sources, that might be enough to pay

<Zakim> robin, you wanted to mention that micropayments is likely the wrong use case for ILP

bkardell_: We should take this opportunity to think about how to do this so it isn’t opaque

robin: Glad Rick mentioned micropayments; I think they’re the worst use case for Interledger
… The utility of paying for a single article is small
… But the ability to send small amounts of money without overhead is important
… In a social media system, the server has the ads, the recommendation engine, etc., and sends it all to the user as a package
… Imagine if the browser selects the ads, and gets paid for the ad, but uses some of that money to services that helped render that content on-screen
… You can start to imagine where search becomes an API instead of a web site
… YOu could have search presented by the browser in different ways, as long as you can make these small payments
… And then you can take a fraction of that and use it to pay for the browser

kleber: I’m a fan of ads as a funding model
… The thing I think is valuable is that as a model, they’re shockingly progressive
… That is, stuff funded through advertising is funded by a tax on all commerce

<robin> https://nytimes.github.io/std-rhea/evil.jpg

kleber: Things like micropaymetns and bundle fees are applying pressure in the wrong place

<koalie> [Chris Wilson departs]

kleber: Places where people actually spend money is where I would love to see the funding come from
… Funding through search is one level of indirection away from that
… Google ends up as a central point of focus, but you’re still at least one level away from where things should be happening
… Amazon is closer, but they decided not to make a browser; isntead the put a lot of money into an app
… The closer you can get to where the money moves, the less you suffer middleman cuts

<robin> I'm not sure that search is one step away — it's where the value of the web (included non-commercial) gets concentrated

kleber: I don’t know if any of this makes things more progressive than they are today or closer to where the money moves
… That’s separate than the problem of how to distribute funds, which I don’t have good answers for

robin: Let’s get the money first, then we can figure out how to distribute it

bkardell_: I want to hold up entertainment as both good and bad

<robin> https://darobin.github.io/garuda/ does mention taxing ads :)

bkardell_: We have bundled things I can pay for and signal how much it’s worth to me to not have ads and access stores of content
… It would be nice to have a way to buy out of ads

robin: That’s where having the ability to see at the browser level to see how much is spent would be useful
… There are companies that say, “pay this much to remove ads”
… If you could see a browser made ten cents from the New York Times, you could say “I’ll pay 20 cents and skip ads”

koalie: If there’s a way to make a system magic thing that belongs to the web and not to a search engine or advertisement, that is probably the direction to take

Next steps / where discussion continues

bkardell_: Thanks everyone! Where should we continue this discussion? Community Group, something else?

<kleber> Yes indeed, I see the appeal of "in-app payment system which takes a mandatory cut of all transactions"! If the web could be funded when people buy something on Amazon that they saw from an influencer on TikTok, that would be a step in what seems like a good direction to me!

Ian: Earlier there was a document from Robin, the WISE document
… Is that too specific a place for next steps?
… It has the advantage of being a thing people can bounce ideas off of

<Ian> darobin/wise

robin: I’m happy to have conversation there, or will bring the document to wherever we’re talking

<bkardell_> darobin/wise

bkardell_: Let’s continue the immediate discussion on the GitHub for WISE, and decide there where we want to go with it

<jaylett> thanks everyone

Minutes manually created (not a transcript), formatted by scribe.perl version 221 (Fri Jul 21 14:01:30 2023 UTC).


Succeeded: s/as Apple/at Apple/

Succeeded: s/levee/levy/

Maybe present: Andreu_Botella, kleber, koalie, rbyers

All speakers: Andreu_Botella, andreubotella, bkardell_, cwilso, Ian, kleber, koalie, rbyers, robin

Active on IRC: andreubotella, bkardell_, cwilso, dbaron, emeyer, Ian, jaylett, kleber, koalie, matatk, plh, rbyers, robin, tpac-breakout-bot