I’m attending the PayPal Developers Conference this week and want to share some initial impressions about the Paypal platform and what it might mean in the world of payments.
First off, the combined weight of the new products, partner demonstrations, and new applications is almost overwhelming. There’s a lot here competing for our collective attention.
Do we start with the rollout of the “adaptive” platform, or the new 2010 pricing model? Should we focus on PayPal’s push into B2B payments with SAP as a launch partner? Or do we drill down into third-party reward-to-cash redemption through PayPal? And what about the partnership with FIS that potentially enables PayPal as a P2P payment network for over 14,000 financial institutions around the world?
For my money, the real story is the introduction of Adaptive Accounts. I believe it’s important, and along with Adaptive Payments, a foundational building block for many application developers, in both traditional and new payment segments. Adaptive Accounts, in short, gives third parties applications and websites the ability to open and manipulate PayPal accounts on behalf of their customers. Don’t have a PayPal account, let me open one for you!
The poster-child launch partner was a new startup called FundRazr that does social group fund raising. As part of setting up an account with FundRazr, you have to register with all the usual name, contact information, profile data, etc. FundRazr is going to use PayPal to payout any funds that are raised. If the group already has a PayPal account, they just use it. If they don’t have an account yet, FundRazr can just open the PayPal account, on demand, based on the account information the group already provided. Call it frictionless commerce or greasing the skids — it sure makes customer onboarding slippery.
Adaptive Accounts offers developers a lot of flexibility. Third party applications can open PayPal accounts one at a time or open them in bulk. If a bank were to use PayPal Adaptive Accounts, it could also link their payment instruments to the PayPal account as funding sources. With the right privileges, applications can also update account attributes.
PayPal talked about a lot about anticipated use cases. A marketplace could open accounts for seller payout and fee collection. A social media site could open PayPal accounts to payout royalties to premium content providers.
In the more traditional payment markets, a small business could open PayPal accounts for their employees, presumedly enabled by a payroll application built on top of the PayPal Adaptive Platform. A B2B payment enabler could offer real-time payment of supplier invoices via PayPal. Don’t have a PayPal business account? They can open one in a couple of screens and have payment in the suppliers hands in a just a few minutes. Potential uses are constrained only by imagination.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Developers will have to follow PayPal best practices to handle PayPal accounts that already exist, accounts that are never “claimed”, and other exceptions. But I was impressed that both PayPal and the developer community are already focused on the edge cases.
PayPal indicated that Adaptive Accounts is in beta now with support for 13 countries. It’s being rolled out on a country-by-country basis to meet local data collection and privacy requirements. To me, the key point here is not that it is only available in 13 countries — it’s that on day one it’s available to open accounts in more than one country.
If Adaptive Payments is the first shoe to fall, Adaptive Accounts is the other shoe. This is an intriguing new capability that I believe is going to open up lots of new uses for PayPal and potentially push the company into new verticals and markets previously unavailable. I can’t wait to see what other new services PayPal offers on its Adaptive Platform.