You might have wondered what was going on last week as up and down the country pictures of huge smiling jelly beans appeared bearing the legend "Beenz".
Beenz is an electronic credit system for use on Web sites, launched by the Beenz Company last week.
Beenz can be earned by Web site visitors in exchange for visiting a particular page or buying products, and are stored at the Beenz Bank (www.beenz.com).
They can then be used to get discounts on online purchases or to access premium content.
"You get paid in Beenz for behaving on a Web site the way the site owner wants you to," said Beenz founder and chief technology officer Charles Cohen.
All account information is held centrally at Beenz servers, which run on stripped-down Linux boxes running BigIP load-balancing software. These servers feed off an Oracle database running on Solaris that is not directly connected to the Internet, so as to increase security. Currently there is just one Beenz server located in Washington, but UK and West Coast installations are planned to handle the expected loads.
The Beenz Company hopes to attract 10 million users by the year 2000, and to that end it is currently giving away Beenz to Web site owners to "feed the economy". Eventually it will charge for Beenz, which expire once a customer "spends" them. It will offer merchants discounts on future purchases based on the number of Beenz spent at the site. However, the company is controlling the spread of Beenz at the moment.
"We want to get the Beenz economy up and running," explained Cohen. "Once we have one billion (Beenz) in circulation, and a base of traders both giving and taking, (the economy) will probably be healthy enough to be autonomous."
Cohen sees Beenz as a more democratic way of marketing, because it is based on what the user wants. "It's something you get when you've 'Been' somewhere," he said. "It's a marketing tool that works like money, rather than like advertising or direct marketing."
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