announcing: www-buyinfo mailing list

Dave Kristol (
Tue, 9 Aug 1994 16:16:41 +0200

Announcing a new mailing list: www-buyinfo. Information about how
to subscribe appears at the end of this message.

Subscriptions will be accepted immediately. Contributions to the
mailing list itself will be rejected until Tuesday, August 16, 1994,
to make sure (slightly) belated subscribers don't miss the early
discussions. Those who subscribe by August 16 will be notified
when the mailing list "opens" for discussion.

The purpose of the mailing list is to discuss topics related to this

Potential information providers would willingly make a vast array of
information available on the World-Wide Web (WWW) if they knew they
could get paid for it. The system should work like this: using your
favorite WWW client program, when you select a hypertext link ("buyinfo
link") that reaches a server that charges money for the information,
the server informs the client program (via HTTP) that there is an
associated charge and lists the available payment options. The client
can give up, either because it has no payment capability or because the
user chooses not to buy the information. Otherwise the client passes
the server some information (via HTTP) that will enable the server to
be reimbursed for the information. The server then returns that
purchased information. If the client is designed in a way that the
user can make money available beforehand (and with a suitable
user-protection interface), a user could traverse buyinfo links
effortlessly, and the financial details would occur invisibly.

These components are required to implement the vision:
- http: to allow the exchange of cost and payment information
- client/server application programmer interfaces (APIs) that make
it easy to add different kinds of payment schemes
- clients that provide an attractive, convenient, safe interface
to support payment
- ways to support transactions in multiple currencies

Some possible payment schemes are: anonymous credit cards, DigiCash,
electronic checks, conventional credit cards.

Other relevant topics for this mailing list:
- the privacy of financial transactions
- authentication of payers
- the efficiency of payment schemes
(Note: I expect that many of the authentication issues will be solved
in a more general context by people working on secure HTTP and will be
discussed on the www-security mailing list.)

This mailing list is NOT for discussion about:
- whether charging for information is a good idea
- how to exchange orders electronically

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David M. Kristol
AT&T Bell Laboratories