From Brian Miller: “First of all, I would like for you to get some sponsorship for your web page so that I can stop feeling guilty about reading your ‘articles’ for free! (Of course, I would never pay actual money to read them, I’m too cheap. Instead, I’m willing to pay by looking at some advertisement.) This would also make me more secure in the fact that the articles will be around for some time to come.”

Sponsorship? Revenue? Are you kidding? This is the Internet. If we can get enough people reading this, and once they finally get up to speed with the clickle, I will be in fat city.

And where is the blasted clickle, anyway? Shouldn’t it be here by now? For those of you who’ve unaccountably forgotten my June 14, 1996, column — or not yet figured out how to access my archives — I reprise it for you here . . . and go it one better.

(This is a joke. The archives are, for now, inaccessible. I’m working on it.)

On June 14, 1996, a date so far not engraved anywhere in the annals of cyberspace, I predicted a new word. Clickle. “Because,” I wrote, “isn’t that what everyone’s working to come up with on the Internet — some way to charge a dime or a nickel or perhaps even just a penny or two for access to a particular page? You’d come to a page, which would show a dialog “access costs a penny” and you could either click to proceed, to cancel — or to proceed and “don’t slow me down with this message again unless you raise your price.”

Sort of a high-tech cross between a trifle and a nickel. The universal monetary unit of the Internet. And although to any given user a clickle’d be just a few cents or a nickel (I suggested), the accumulated clickle trickle could become a flood. For it would come not just from U.S. nickels, but from Russian rubles, Arabian rials, Israeli shekels and Polynesian pickles (or whatever the Balinese call their loose change).

“I know an access charge will make people stickle,” I conceded. “But you watch. When a simple click’ll get them where they want to go, they’ll soon be dropping clickles without a second thought. You mark my word.”

The implications, I concluded, were not all bad. “Say it’s five years from now, when TV and the Internet are fully integrated somehow. There’s a show that you really enjoy like Fox’s Profit (remember that one?), but that has to be dropped for insufficient ratings. Aha! What if they could keep it going by supplementing ad dollars with clickles? I, for one, would gladly have dropped a few clickles to see another episode.”

And that brings me to 1999 and to the new life I hope to breathe into the clickle. Because, yes, I know people are resistant to paying for anything on the net. I know that Michael Kinsley’s fine e-magazine, Slate, has recently dropped its modest subscription fee, and that an efficient, universal system of collecting “micropayments” is still some way off (but how much longer can it possibly take Visa or American Express or Yahoo or somebody to figure this out?).

My new twist? The voluntary clickle — the v-clickle. Not a v-chip, a v-tip, really — singing for my supper — the v-clickle is the v-hicle I’d ride to riches.

It would be very simple.

At the end of each column would be a little “token.” Or maybe two or three. Click the little one if you want to toss a nickel into my cup, the middle one to toss in a dime, and — if you just fell off your chair laughing or learned a way to save $300 in taxes — go crazy: click the big token and tip me a quarter.

Or tip nothing at all.

My thought is that if this column is worth your time (which is the real precious payment you make reading it), then what’s a further dime? With a billion Internet households expected soon, if only 10% of them read my column daily, and only 50% of those liked it enough to tip me a clickle — even one of those little nickel clickles — that would be $2.5 million a day. Might even be enough to get me to write these things Saturdays.


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