It was only a matter of time. It used to be that social networking was a specialized feature that was only done by specialized websites. Then social became a must-have feature for everyone. That’s what’s happening now to crowdfunding.

YouTube is adding a tip feature to its channel, announced in this blog post:

Fan Funding: Your fans aren’t just watching your videos, they’re also helping support your channel through services like KickStarterIndieGogo,Patreon and more. We’ll be adding another option for you, where fans will be able to contribute money to support your channel at any time, for any reason. A handful of creators are testing this feature soon on desktop and Android, including Dulce DelightFitness BlenderThe Healthcare Triage,The King of RandomSoul PancakeSteve Spangler ScienceThe Young Turks, and Thug Notes. If you’re interested in trying it on your channel,sign up here.

A tip feature isn’t necessarily a subscription or a campaign managing service, but it is a start. Crowdfunding is a way of getting money out of existing networks, so it’s fairly obvious that moving bits of money around should be a feature built on top of existing networks – particularly creative ones. This looks like a pretty good first step into the financial transactions world for YouTube. My main questions are where the feature goes from here, and how much it costs. Will they add all-or-nothing pledges? Will they allow subscriptions per video or per unit time? Will the money go through Google’s payments systems, and if so, how much would it cost?

This is probably a good thing for artists, since it means more ways to give money with less jumping about across websites. My fondest hope is that YouTube will compete with other crowdfunding platforms on price. Up till now, 5% + CC fees has been pretty standard, but YouTube certainly has the power to drop the cost to artists of using the platform. They won’t be able to compete with the branding and deep platform that Kickstarter has any time soon, but I would love to see some actual price competition in the crowdfunding space. Until now it’s just been slightly different feature sets at just about the same price, with less brand recognition and less powerful network effects than Kickstarter.

Big networks getting in the game should be really interesting.

And once all the creative networks get in the game, and micropayments are just plain a standard website feature, banks might even get into the game and compete on price. Or maybe we’ll all be using bitcoin as a super cheap transaction method just like Ezra Klein thinks

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