Google Contributor, a program which turned a website's visitors into its advertisers, is no longer open to new participants.
The program's status changed with little fanfare yesterday, and the site was updated with a notice which conveyed the news but little else.
When reached for comment, a Google spokesperson told me that the program had not been shut down, and that "We will have a new version early next year and have stopped sign ups for the old one in the interim."
Google has not said how the program will change, but hopefully the new program will live up to its initial promises.
When it was launched a little over two years ago, Google Contributor was described as a way that users could subscribe for a monthly fee and directly support the sites they like. In exchange, they are supposed to see fewer ads.
This might sound similar to services like Patreon, but in reality Google Contributor operates nothing like any of the patronage services you might be using.
As I explained in July 2015, Google Contributor doesn't actually let users provide direct financial support to websites.
Instead, it turns users into advertisers on its ad network. They pay a monthly fee, and whenever they visited a site with Google adverts that fee is used to outbid advertisers so that the existing ads can be replaced with images of cats or whatever a Google Contributor user wants to see.
Users are basically paying Google for the privilege of showing themselves cat pictures while at the same time the site with the ads is getting only a tiny amount more in ad revenue.
And rather than just work with the sites chosen by a user, Google Contributor worked with all sites on Google's ad networks (Adsense and DoubleClick).
So not only was there no direct connection between a site and its fans, there was no selectivity. Users ended up supporting all sites they visited.
Really, the only entity to benefit from Google Contributor was Google, which is why the majority of users canceled their accounts and why the program went on hiatus.
And that is a shame because in 2016 web publishers could have used a program which lived up to Google Contributor's original promises. I know of only a double handful of sites which aren't struggling financially. They're either slathering their sites with more adverts, begging their visitors for direct financial support, or (in my case) just getting out of the rat race entirely.
Google Contributor would have helped immensely if it had lived up to the original promises. Instead, Google pulled a bait and switch.