PayPal X – a new community

PayPal X – a new community

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Author: tester (10 Articles)

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In the beginning …

… PayPals programming model was one of customization. When a business wanted to use PayPals services, PayPal reps would meet directly with the client.  In this meeting, PayPal would be requisitioned to create a specific interface and protocols of its services according to the customers requirements (i.e. a specific and proprietary format s per client).

When the clients are very large (Enterprise), and specific client requirements must be met, this is the preferred option to work with the client and get the contract.  However, if you open up your service to many smaller clients, this strategy is very expensive and redundant. Besides  most small clients want the same thing in the Payments world. “A way to be paid and to pay out”.

The new wave – community based APIs

Today, PayPal has decided to shift gears and move away from the customization model to the newer web 2.0, or even web 2.5 model, and thus, creating a development community powered by a generic API. ( API – Application Programming Interface – is a strategically created generic set of interfaces and functions allowing other applications the ability to access and use the services offered by a server). Paypal has developed a generic and well thought out set of its payment and administration services and aggregated them into two APIs. Meaning, anyone with an interest in building an application that requires payments or money transfers of any kind, and wishes to leverage PayPal’s infrastructure for this, now has the tools for the job in two simple APIs (which I will discuss more thoroughly in future posts).

PayPal has decided to create a structured community of applications and developers under a cloud of services and sites.

They have setup two sites for this:

The main developing documentation and community site they have owned since the very beginning www.x.com

The sandbox site (Explained in more detail bellow) at https://developer.paypal.com .

PayPal has created a spanking new developer platform and Eco-System, which I am very excited about.

Mickey’s side note – usability vs. users trust

Before I go into my experiences or personal thoughts and dilemmas, I would like to remind any future developer or entrepreneur in this space about a specific truth that has helped me understand how and why PayPal has decided to go the way they did with their API.

Creating an application which leverages a payment option is not a trivial pursuit (pun intended).

The Developers MUST understand that they are dealing with REAL MONEY, which forces the developers to be very open and transparent with the process that is being run in their application. They have to understand that it makes sense that not all the steps should be done in their app – at least until they win over the customers’ trust.

Developers are not used to sharing the workflows and structures with the novice customer. But, in order to write a usable and trusted payments app, absolute transparency is required. And, this might also require the client to setup certain specifics on the PayPal site by themselves.

HOWEVER, the customers who are being cushioned here must also understand this, so as not to feel that by sending them to the PayPal site, they are losing usability due to an un-user-friendly application, BUT rather due to gaining the customers trust by being transparent about what is going on behind the scenes.

In order for this to pass, the developer must, in my opinion, add screenshots and explanations of what is to come in the payment flow and EXACTLY what the customer must do (maybe a video would even make sense here).

And, I believe this should be explained in detail to the customer to make sure they understand their app is not unusable, or over protective, but rather that it is for the customers own peace of mind.

SandBox Logo

The sandbox site – a basic overview

The idea of a sandbox site is very common in today’s programming world. Most applications offering some sort of development/customization/adding module to their apps usually offer a sandbox server for testing purposes. The sandbox is a server that looks and behaves like the real production server on the “mother site”, and it usually runs the same software version as on the “mother site” as well.  This allows developers the ability to play around and test their app in a safe environment which is much more forgiving and verbose regarding errors and error logs.

PayPal has created a sandbox platform for you to play in, and facilitate your app creation Eco-System by offering you:

  1. Dummy users accounts <as many as you want>.
  2. A dummy email system – through which your dummy users will send and receive mails from the sandbox server.
  3. c. A test server that will accept any credit card and any type of currency transfers between the dummy accounts.  - You can try to pay your developers with this service, but I doubt they would accept your “monopoly- money” incentive. J
  4. Basic debugging capabilities and full verbose mode.

The new system is a very “Apple Apps” concept – (i.e. a developer community and forums, a single moderator for approved applications, and a simple yet effective analytics system showing what apps are currently used most often to help you understand your competitors and better your value propositions.)

So, how does one register into the community?

Stage 1 : Get an AppID

1)      Register as a Business Account on www.PayPal.com

a.       Register to create an app.

b.      Explain the main concept of your app in their application form.

c.   Receive a unique sandbox AppID which you will use to authenticate and run API calls to the sandbox server.

Stage 2: Develop your App while interfacing with a dummy site (sandbox)

  1. You develop an app using the APIs in PHP, Perl, Dot.NET, XML, Paired, XSD or whatever your preference.
  2. Enter your AppID into the API calls to authenticate with the sandbox server’s services.
  3. Play around in the sand, beta debugging your app and refining it.
  4. Submit your new app for approval – don’t forget this is payments and money so its flows need to be approved.

Stage 3: Submit for App approval (~10 Days)

a.       You will need to fill out a form explaining what the app does (same as in step 1.b)

b.      You will most likely be contacted within several days by a PayPal auditor to explain how the flows act and what the processes are.

c. You may have to include the URL on the site, or screenshots,  in case this is a mobile app (more on mobile on future posts).

6)      Get a real AppID which is linked to the specific version you submitted.

7)      Or, get rejected and resubmit (there is no penalty).

Stage 4: Get real AppID and begin production

8)      Go into your app and swap the sandbox AppID with the real (production) AppID you received on step 6.

9)   BugFix/Update versions.

Stage 5: Resubmit for bugfix/version change

10)   Resubmit (Stage 3 and on).  PayPal promises it will be a fast re-approval process.

Thinking ahead – Mickey recommends

PayPal’s app community is trying to help developers in many way, which is a very ambitious project. The PayPal app community portal tries to create a very commendable set of analytics.

If your app has stepped over the line they will disallow your AppID, so if your web server runs several apps at the same time, PayPal will only shut off the rogue app, and not the web server or IP address.

  1. For this reason it is smart to have different AppIDs for different platforms your app runs on (i.e. anAppID for your iphone app, and another for you Symbian app and a third for your WebApp).
  2. Similarly, when bug/fixing or updating it would be better to resubmit the app and get another AppID, so if suddenly something unforeseen creates an app disallowance issue, you can revert back to the older version and run the still valid AppID paired with the older version. So as not to be entirely at the mercy of external parties when you’re trying to regain online status. (good negotiation tactic too – don’t start a negotiation when you have the lower hand)

B.      Whenever an App is shutoff, the entire app community is alerted to the reason.  This will help make sure your app does not make the same mistakes its predecessors made.

a.       Strategically, this might create a “Lager Effect”, where companies will wait for others to fail and learn from their mistakes.

However, this is just another cost of doing business in an open community with little corporate confidentiality.

Actually I believe, “First To Market” will probably have their AppIDs revoked many times due to PayPal’s  by-laws as an international bank for all intents and purposes. However PayPal claims that they have removed all “Lawyer-speak” from their explanations of do’s and don’ts.

This is still a very new initiative – Mickey vents

And, like all new beginnings it has its issues as well.  PayPal’s developer site www.x.com could be better organized and maintained as some documentation is missing images and explanations.

Also, it took me a LONG while to notice that the “videos and tutorials” section is located under the “Innovate 2009” Tab on the main page of the site. The tab did not look clickable to me, so I disregarded it as unclickable object. Moreover I had no idea “Innovate” was a conference explaining PayPal’s new Eco-System.

There is also no way to download the movies for times I want to skim through them faster than my internet speed allows or archive them for documentation purposes.

Due to PayPal being a real bank, its session time to live has been greatly reduced. This is important for user safety in the bank, since the site is a real bank site. However, www.x.com is a developer’s site, and thus, developers use it as reference materials while they code. And it is quite annoying to enter a user/password into the site every time I need to lookup explanations for functions and sample code.

Also, as www.x.com does not allow you to view documents without logging in, you can’ t use search engines to search through the documentation either.

The hi-tech startups’ economic models will never be the same

Despite these few obstacles which I’m sure Paypal will likely straighten out, PayPal has started a very welcomed approach to Payment and Payment services, which will create an great change in the economic models for future startups and applications.

If until now the economic inflow model included advertising, direct sales and the last new technology “payment via American-Idol sytle Text messages pay per send”.  Finally you will be able to allow the user to pay you with PayPal – Now, Online, and Safely.

PayPal is changing the way B2B and B2C will do business from now on. And, I am sure this is not the last we will hear from PayPal or the credit card companies o this matter.

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Author: tester (10 Articles)

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