Cash API

2010 February 22
by Dave

In November of 2009 PayPal opened up it’s API to outside developers. This means that in the near future the web, your iPhone, and even your desktop applications will be filled with new and interesting ways to pay for things. In some cases we will be able to buy things that couldn’t be bought before. In other cases we will be sold things that were free before. But mostly, buying stuff will be easier, prettier, and more tightly integrated than currently.

If I wanted to charge to make comments I could alter the submission button on this site to submit all of the necessary information to perform a PayPal checkout using php. Then, in the same php code block, I could look for transaction verification from PayPal before posting the comment. All that would change visually is an extra textbox or two would be added. No jarring transition to PayPal’s website and complete control over how I want to integrate it.

The same method could be used to sell your own image and text ads completely within your site. These things can already be done on the web without api access, however the methods require cumbersome shopping carts, poor integration, and tortured delivery mechanisms unsuited to many digital products. You can now tailor all of these things exactly to what you are charging for.

More importantly, developers can integrate this same functionality into flash, iPhone apps, and any other piece of software that can connect to the internet. The Wired article on this in their March issue is big on the effects that this will have on payment processing and the cutting of credit card companies online revenue. I agree that the next several years will become increasingly difficult for the middle men that extract a fee in between the credit card companies but I don’t think that will be the big revolution.

This is one of the final big steps on the gradual path towards web content monetization that has been the past decade’s work. There will finally be an elegant solution for adding micro payments to rich web content that doesn’t require users to create accounts specifically for your site and buy chunks of credit’s in advance. Those were insurmountable obstacles to getting someone to pay a nickel to read your article or play your flash game. Now the customer does not have to decide first whether or not they want to establish a relationship. They can just put a nickel in the news stand and get todays paper. Steve Jobs won’t save the LA Times, but PayPal might.

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