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Tech by VICE

This Guy Is Charging People For Every Character They Text

Expensive.chat, a new chat tool from Marc Köhlbrugge, charges people for each character they type. All money goes to Marc.

by Caroline Haskins
Feb 28 2019, 8:22pm

On Thursday morning, developer and entrepreneur Marc Köhlbrugge announced the launch of Expensive Chat, a public chat room where everyone has to pay a penny per character typed.

In a tweet, Köhlbrugge said that Expensive Chat is a “a social experiment to see what happens to a chatroom when it's not a free-for-all, but every message cost you cold, hard cash.” The chat, which was down at the time of writing, takes payment through Stripe, as well as credit and debit.

If Expensive Chat shows that people adjust their behavior when money is on the line, or provides commentary on the state of in-app purchases or microtransactions, it’s not necessarily by design. Expensive Chat, Köhlbrugge told Motherboard, is primarily a way to make money.

“To be the honest the reason I started it, was because I thought it would be a fun way to make some extra money,” Köhlbrugge told Motherboard in a Twitter DM.

When asked where the money goes, Köhlbrugge said, “The money goes to me.” According to Köhlbrugge, he’s earned $103.41 so far.

Testing image from wip.chat for Expensive Chat from Friday, February 22.
Image: Testing image from wip.chat for Expensive Chat from Friday, February 22. “marc” is Marc Köhlbrugge.

Köhlbrugge told Motherboard that his goal for Expensive Chat is to expand it into a viable business.

“I'm considering building this out into a more serious product where perhaps celebrities and professionals can host paid chats, where the proceeds go to charity/etc.,” he wrote. “E.g. chat with kanye west, $10 per message. money goes to his charity. But as you might have noticed I have some technical issues to fix before I can do something more serious like that.”

Köhlbrugge is the founder and head of WIP (Work in Progress), a group chat website for entrepreneurs to discuss ongoing projects. It has a $20 per month subscription model, and Köhlbrugge claims to make about $40,000 per year from the site. He also has a site for startup job postings and a startup discovery site called BetaList.

Köhlbrugge also launches experimental sites every couple months to try and make some extra money, he said. Köhlbrugge told Motherboard that almost three years ago, he started highscore.money—a “pay-to-play" leaderboard game where people essentially bribe their way to the top of a leadership board.

According to Köhlbrugge, he earned $2,500 in profits in about 24 hours from highscore.money. But profits quickly died after the hype wore down. At the time of publication, highscore.money has generated $2,574 in profit.

“Since the money is relatively 'easily' made, I tend to use it for something fun. http://highscore.money's money I used for a trip to Asia,” Köhlbrugge wrote. “So depending on how much money http://expensive.chat will generate i might do something similar. (I'm now traveling permanently as a digital nomad, currently in Bali, Indonesia–so I'll need to come up with something new.)”

Expensive Chat isn’t exactly a meta social commentary about the way we communicate and spend money online, but it’s not exactly a scam either. It’s just a clever hustle.