NetCents: A Lightweight Protocol for Secure Micropayments


NetCents is a lightweight, flexible and secure protocol for electronic commerce over the Internet that is designed to support purchases ranging in value from a fraction of a penny and up. NetCents differs from previous protocols in several respects: NetCents uses (vendor-independent) floating scrips as signed containers of electronic currency, passed from vendor to vendor. This allows NetCents to incorporate decentralized verification of electronic currency at a vendor's server with offline payment capture. Customer trust is not required within this protocol and a probabilistic verification scheme is used to effectively limit vendor fraud. An online arbiter is implemented that will ensure proper delivery of purchased goods and that can settle most customer/vendor disputes. NetCents can be extended to support fully anonymous payments. In this paper we describe the NetCents protocol and present experimental results of a prototype implementation.