A network for accepting payments online

Heya peeps! I am cooking up a website after chatting about how to accept payments online.

After I grabbed a domain and started planning it, Patreon went and made changes that folks feel weird about, so in some ways the central premise of my idea is validated.

Okay, it is really easy for me to accept payments online. I have all the payment processor accounts created, I have hosting available, and I have a bunch of software that works together to basically make an online form or button that tells your financial network to give my credit union the monies.

I’ve done it so many times, and in so many contexts, it takes me about five minutes from wanting money to sending someone a link to get it, starting from scratch.

That means I don’t pay a middle-company a fee on top of the payment processors, and there are less rules to follow. Also, based on how these sites work, your money hangs with them for a while (not a bad idea, just a fact of doing business), and who knows what they are doing with your data. What data? All the information about your friends/supporters, being fed to advertisers and data silos, where it is used to exploit folks… it isn’t good. And by using those systems you are complicit in their “terms of service”.

All this bothers me. I wish more folks self-hosted. I wish they would sell digital goods from their own site, instead of loading up some market that actively seeks to destroy the others. I wish people could make money on their own terms, and not have to consult their non-existent accountant when a corporation is done with its honeymoon phase and now has to pay back all the VC they borrowed.

In that spirit, here is my thinking: I am going to host a network of sites (WordPress multisite), so folks can build their own payment pages.

Ya see, I can spin up a WordPress site and accept payments for you, but that isn’t good enough. Creators, citizens, everyone: you should be learning how these systems work, because you are affected by them.

So what happens is, each person will get a subsite, and I will provide all the plugins and docs to get you up and running. And because it is a “slow web” service, I will be helping each and every person signing up (for now, maybe I can write really killer docs that does the heavy lifting…).

What does it come with? A very simple theme, with some forms and a way to connect it to your payment processors.

That means the database I host will have API keys or whatever, but no financial credentials. And while by default the site will have records of form submissions (“transactions”), that behavior can be modified, and also automatically exported on a schedule.

What I am saying is, I am hosting websites for free. Free, because I think that helping people is legacy as well as currency (and also because I will also have a way for folks to send me money!), but also free as in I won’t be doing anything with data; I am just hosting, not getting involved in your finances.

There’s a bunch of other stuff for the future, like running campaigns and recurring donations, but we are gonna keep it simple to launch. The most important parts are that it is secure, doesn’t load any crap, and gets my peeps paid (and if they do get paid, I have so many questions!).

Let’s see, a few other features:

  • Secured with Let’s Encrypt
  • Individuals have their own sites, and will eventually have more customizations options
  • Payment forms are completely customizable
  • Will accept Stripe and PayPal (ugh!)

Right now I am working on a minimal WordPress theme that can do a single page site layout, so looking for design patterns that are useful. Thinking something like a place for a headshot and then some intro text, and then the payment form. Prior art or ideas are welcome!

Let me know if you have any questions, concerns or wishes!

1 Like

So is the expectation that youll be hosting entire sites or just setting up single-page “brandable donation pages” for existing sites to link to? This could be read either way to me.

Is it possible for creators to opt to choose to give you a cut of the fund their collecting, pay what they want style?

1 Like

At first, just “brandable pages”, but over time I am open to other things. I am not going out of my way to turn off WordPress functionality, but there will be no space for many uploads, for instance, so I am not encouraging it for anything else.

I’d like to develop new features as folks discuss them, and taking a critical stance at any feature, to explain how it changes the relationship between the users and the service. I’ll expand on that in the next answer.

While the plugins and configuration would allow an advanced use like that, there is no easy way for me to take a cut in that way. I explain it like that, because the tech is there, for potentially interesting funding ideas, but there is no will or assumption.

And I would not consent to such an arrangement. I am not running a business service here. That would really complicate things for me. Instead, as far as a user of the platform, I am just another user that will use it to process payments, and how folks got there is up to me. Some will owe me for services rendered, and some will want to support and idea I had, and all the obligations for my transactions are on me. But I don’t want to be involved in others’ finances!

So think of this as a friend with some web space available, and also this whole toolkit to accept payments online, but it is DIY, and the server is restricted in certain ways. Because that is what it is. :slight_smile:

A question I’d have at this point would probably be like, “why would I use a server like this, from someone that isn’t even wanting to monetize it?”

And I’d answer that by saying, yeah, I know, it is strange. But “success” for this project is achieved if only a handful of transactions go down and my peeps’ lives are a little bit easier. It is helpful for me to ask for money to build something, folks might just give me money, and I can use the site to do that. That works in meta, of course: once I figure out how much the site takes to run for a year, I’ll ask for money to cover it. If I am transparent and upfront, I think this little service can stay alive and help folks looking for a little more involvement in their online commerce.

I’ve been hitting my head against this for months, so let me share some walls.

I thought the problem was folks didn’t know how to hook up a Stripe account to a web page. I thought I could show how it is done, and folks without a website would use my hosted instance, but others would run with it.

But it turns out, that isn’t the hard part. Directly dealing with a payment processor is actually not great, so much so that platforms are constantly changing their terms to figure out how it work for them.

And then there are the features that folks utilize, which I don’t really know about because I don’t use them. But here are some things I don’t know how to do right now:

  • Campaign tracking (how much money, which target number)
  • Reports or engagement tools
  • Customizations and logins from other services

Basically, I thought folks just wanted a place to have a donation button.

So instead, let me ask, what do people want from a donation and payment site/network?