Pay to surf

Pay to surf (PTS) is a business model that became popular in the late 1990s though it saw significant decline after the dot-com crash. Internet users installed programmes that tracked their browsing, and displayed targeted ads.[1] Companies would use income from advertising placed on the users screen to pay them for time spent browsing the web.[2]


A PTS company would provide a smaller program to be installed on a member’s computer. Advertisers’ banner ads were then displayed while the member was browsing the web. Since the company’s Viewbar software tracked websites that the user visited, the PTS company was able to deliver targeted ads for their advertisers. Advertisers paid the company a small amount (typically US$0.50) for every hour of a member’s surfing.[2]

Members were usually limited on the amount of time per month for which they would be paid to surf (typically 20 hours). However, PTS companies also paid their members for each new user referred to the company (typically US$0.05 – US$0.10 per recruit). It was profitable for a member to garner as many referrals as possible, encouraging some users to recruit members using spam, though officially forbidden by the user’s agreement. Minors, many of whom flocked to these business models as an easy source of income, were required to obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian.

PTS companies

The most well-known PTS company was AllAdvantage.[3] It launched in March 1999 and grew to 13 million members in little over a year with the multi-level marketing system of recruiting new members. The scheme capitalized on the notion that anyone could make money on the internet without much effort.

By late 2001, with the dot-com bubble’s collapse, very few PTS companies remained as 100% of the revenue came from internet advertising.[4] This was an area hardest hit.

As with many Internet business models, PTS companies attracted people trying to defraud the company out of money. The companies had to deal with spammers, often having to terminate member accounts. Software utilities started appearing which allowed users to simulate surfing activity.[5][6] Some users also created mechanical mouse-moving devices which ran around their desks (i.e. “JiggyMouse”).[7] These programs and devices allowed users to get paid simply for leaving their computers on. This began an arms race between the PTS companies who built fraud-prevention software and fraud program developers, with each releasing increasingly sophisticated versions of their software.

Today, there are still a few surviving PTS companies but these are often rewards-based wherein users are given reward points, which can be exchanged for gifts, when surfing the web or doing tasks such as answering marketing email and shopping at specific stores.[8] Another version rehashed the concept as “pay-you-for-your-attention” scheme wherein an Internet user is paid in exchange for the surfing interruption or paid in exchange for information about themselves and their Internet habits.[9] A web browser called Brave is also offering income-sharing feature with its users who opt to view its advertisements.[10] It was designed by JavaScript creator Brendan Eich and Brian Bondy.[11]


  1. ^“This Browser Will Pay You to Surf the Web”. Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  2. ^ Jump up to:ab “PAY TO SURF 2019”. McEconomist (in Spanish). 2019-03-10. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  3. ^“It pays to surf”. BBC. 1999-04-06. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  4. ^“Yellowbubble finally bursts”. Centaur Communications. 2011-10-19. Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  5. ^ Peter Kang (2000-07-10). “It Pays to Cheat, Not Surf”. Wired. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  6. ^Eunjung Cha, Ariana; Walker, Leslie (1999-12-12). “Pay-To-Surf Pyramid Schemes Abound – And Work, For Some”. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  7. ^Lisa Guernsey (1999-06-01). “Can It Pay to Surf the Web?”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
  8. ^Napier, H. Albert; Rivers, Ollie N.; Wagner, Stuart (2006). Creating a Winning E-Business. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. p. 48. ISBN 0619217421.
  9. ^Goodman, Andrew (2009). Winning Results with Google AdWords, Second Edition. New York: McGraw Hill Professional. p. 6. ISBN 9780071595742.
  10. ^“Brave launches its Brave Ads platform sharing 70% of the ad revenue with its users”. Packt Hub. 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  11. ^Tiwari, Aditya (2019-01-17). “11 Best Web Browsers For Windows To Access Your Favorite Sites In 2019”. Fossbytes. Retrieved 2019-05-06.

Ofer Abarbanel – Executive Profile

Ofer Abarbanel online library

Ofer Abarbanel online library

Ofer Abarbanel online library

Ofer Abarbanel online library