Google has reportedly scrapped a feature that would allow people to donate money to websites to support musicians, news publishers and bloggers, among others, according to leaked images seen by Tech Crunch.

The tipping tool, which would link to Google Payments, would provide the option of making a one-time donation of between $0.25 to $5 through a floating button at the bottom of the screen.

While the feature could have generated a much-needed source of income to the often-struggling sites, many of which experienced declining incomes prior to COVID-19 due to the declining display ad market, the search engine giant opted not to launch it in favour of other pursuits.

The COVID-19 lockdowns have forced the cancellation of thousands of events, and therefore eliminated ticketing income for musicians and other stakeholders in the industry overnight, as well as reducing podcast listenership that many media publishers rely on for revenue.

Google issued a statement to Tech Crunch, stating: “We recognise that there isn’t a single business model that works for all publishers today and think it’s critical to explore new technologies that can help publishers make more money. Funding Choices is a great example of a product we have invested in significantly and will continue to evolve to support publishers and their monetisation strategies.”

Google confirmed the tipping feature was an internal idea explored last year as part of its Contributor programme and Google Funding Choices, which lets sites ask visitors to disable ad blockers, or instead buy a subscription or pay a per page fee to remove ads.

Google trialled the tipping tool with sites including the Miranda Sings music site, The Points Guy travel advice site, the Spiritual Boss Babe blog and the Forest Research UK government site.

Image: Robert Scoble