Internet companies may soon start charging customers to access their sites, at least if UK internet company 54Zero has anything to do with it.
The company announced its plans to "revolutionise the internet" by allowing website owners to charge users for access to their sites via a premium rate phone line, in an aim to prevent a further spate of dotcom failures.
Content, information and entertainment would therefore only be available at a cost.
"Where's the sense in giving away something that costs companies a substantial amount of money to acquire?" asked Duncan Smyth, managing director of 54Zero.
Access to the site would only be allowed if the user had a credit card or a mobile phone, which would then automatically be charged.
The company has already designed a phone that uses a pin number to allow access to sites charging for content. But how this will affect consumer use of the internet is difficult to determine.
"The internet is meant to be a cheap place, a community," said a spokesperson at the Consumers Association. "Charging people to access sites will mean less people will choose the internet. Customers' who are buying goods should not have to incur further charges when ordering or finding information about those goods."
"Whatever the current perception of the dotcom market place, there is a vibrant and growing new internet economy," said Smyth who called for a return to old business models where companies "charge for things that have real value and manage for profit not page impressions".