We’ve added a number of new payment features and options to our site designed to make things better for our members. This includes a new deposit form that allows arbitrary deposit amounts, the ability to choose either a specific payment or a specific deposit amount and let our system work out the fees, support for Dwolla and Bitcoin as payment methods, and the option to set up your site to accept contributions from the general public toward its hosting costs.
New payment features
Because of the admittedly complex nature of our “payment-fee+rebate=deposit” system and the number of factors that went into calculating the rebate, we have traditionally limited people to fixed deposit amounts. Thanks to a few simplifications in the rebate calculations (which have caused some deposits to become a few cents cheaper and the cost of others to go up a few cents) and some other behind-the-scenes changes, we’ve (finally!) been able to do away with that limitation. This is something that people have been asking for for a long time, and it’s frankly overdue, so we’re very happy that this feature has finally made it to production.
As a counterpart to that change, we’ve also placed the decision about how to calculate deposit fees into your hands. If you want to pay $20, have the $1.00 net fee deducted and receive $19.00 in your account, that’s the way it has always worked and it still does today. However, if you want to deposit $20.00 into your account, you now also have the option to click a button and let the system figure out that to do that, you should make a $21.03 payment. This will be very helpful for many use cases, like depositing just enough to register that domain name. (But don’t forget to account for privacy service!)
New payment methods
At long last, we have introduced support for Dwolla. Although limited to US customers, Dwolla is an interesting alternative to traditional payment processors. As they have a very favorable fee structure, we quite naturally hope they will be very popular with our members.
And, at some past point, I was caught in public stating that we not would revisit our decision not to accept bitcoin until after we had implemented arbitrary HTTP servers and we had implemented Dwolla support. Well, we now have both of those things. And thanks to the bitcoin experts at Bitpay, we now have bitcoin support as well! Bitpay not only made integration very straightforward for us, but they also assume most of the volatility risk by accepting bitcoins from you and paying us in US dollars. That combination removed most of our major objections to bitcoin acceptance and made it easy for us to change our long-held position on this.
Checks aren’t a new payment option, but they’re definitely improved. If you’ve ever sent one, you’re familiar with the onerous deposit form we make you fill out and include. Well, computers are supposed to automate routine tasks, so that form is now filled out automatically. All you have to do is click to print when you set up a mailed-in deposit and the form happens for you. Or, use the new streamlined process for online bill-pay. Either way, you’ll save some time and hassle.
Finally, on the credit card front, in addition to Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, we now also accept JCB and Diner’s Club cards. Or, we assume we do. We’ve never actually seen either one to try it.
New payment options
Is your website something you do to make information available to the world? Does the world find it helpful, and often tell you that. Have you ever thought to yourself, “hey, if I’m doing all the work on this site to help/entertain others, why am I the one paying for it?”
Do you run a popular forum site with lots of users that would be more than happy to help pitch in to cover the costs, but maybe you don’t want 1000 people sending $2.00 checks to your house?
Or, are you a web developer who hosts sites with us for clients who want to pay their own bills, but for whom the responsibility and technical requirements of their own NearlyFreeSpeech.NET membership are not a good fit?
We now have the ability to let you allow the public (or a subset of the public) to make contributions to a site’s hosting costs through our service, without those contributors having to have a NearlyFreeSpeech.NET membership.
This is something we’ve always wanted to do, but we’ve only ever done it poorly. We’ve offered ad-hoc options for accepting donations via PayPal to a few sites, and we’ve had a form on our site to allow anyone to mail-in a check. That’s all done with. As of today, sites that apply to accept contributions (and that are accepted), can send their contributors to a special page on our public site that will let them use any of the payment options we support. Their contributions will go directly into your account to help fund your site.
The contribution process also has privacy built into its very core. The contributor identifies themselves to us, so we can process their payment, and you identify yourself to us so we can provide you hosting. But we do not identify them to you, nor you to them. During the process, they have the option to send you a brief message which they can, if they choose, use to identify themselves to you. Each contribution will also be assigned a unique ID code provided to both parties. The name of the site receiving the contribution, the ID code, the amount of the contribution, and the contributor’s message (if any) will be the only information shared between the contributor and the site operator.
Accepting payments from the general public is fraught with risk, and we need to make sure this feature isn’t abused or used as an eCommerce substitute, so there is naturally a solid page of fine print associated with accepting contributions for your site, and it will always be at our discretion whether or not to accept contributions for a particular site. If you’re interested in finding out more about this capability, start here.
In addition to the contribution feature, we’ve also made it easier than ever to transfer funds between NearlyFreeSpeech.NET memberships. If you know someone’s account number, you can transfer funds from your account to theirs instantly by using the “Transfer Funds Between Accounts” action on the Accounts tab in our member interface. Just like always, you can also use this option to transfer funds between your own accounts; it’s just easier and prettier now.
Perhaps this stuff is not as exciting as adding features or upgrading our equipment, and in some cases it required a ton of work to rebuild what we already had — work no one will ever see — in order to make a better foundation for the new stuff. But it really was a ton of work to build and test all of this, so we’re thrilled that it’s ready and really hope our members will find the new functionality helpful and get good use out of it!
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