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PayPal Pitches Devs on '$32 Trillion' Opportunity

PayPal President Scott Thompson (left) and Osama Bedier, vice president of the PayPal platform and emerging technology
PayPal President Scott Thompson (left) and Osama Bedier, vice president of the PayPal platform and emerging technology
Photos: David Needle
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- PayPal detailed ambitious plans to open up its payment platform to third-party developers at an event here at its Silicon Valley headquarters. Between 30 and 50 companies are already testing a beta of the new APIs that will allow developers to embed PayPal's secure global payment system into their applications.

Final release is set for Nov. 3 at a new developer conference in San Francisco, which PayPal will host.

PayPal President Scott Thompson said he thinks in the next three to five years there will be millions of developers leveraging PayPal's system.

"We're the first and only payment service open to third-party developers with a secure, global plug-and-play model, which can be embedded into whatever you want to do and get paid by your customers anywhere in the world wherever they might be," Thompson said. Currently over $2,000 in transactions flows through PayPal's systems every second via its 75 million active registered accounts spread across 190 markets globally.

PayPal's new Adaptive Payments model will let companies collect payments at time of transaction, or before or after services at specified times or on a recurring basis, a subscription service for example.

"Let's be clear, payments for services is a much, much bigger opportunity than e-commerce is today or will be in the future," Thompson said. He pegged services as over a $30 trillion market, quoting research by McKinsey.

Another PayPal exec, Osama Bedier, said that while the past few years have been a terrific time for developers with the advent of platforms like Facebook, the iPhone and cloud computing, the opportunities to make money have been too limited. "It's time to take those handcuffs off," said Bedier, PayPal's vice president of platform and emerging technology.

Among the early testers and supporters of PayPal's initative is Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Yousef Khalidi, a distinguished engineer on Microsoft's Windows Azure team, said the company is developing payment services that will be part of Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform, when it's released later this year.

"Cloud computing's strong value proposition is you can get online very quickly, you don't have to worry about buying machines, you can worry about your business project," he said. "And the ability to pay for only what you need and the agility it brings is important."

Michael Ivey, co-founder and CEO of Twitpay, is already using the early version of PayPal's APIs to offer a payment service over Twitter. A simple tweet message is tied back to the Twitpay site, which is in turn connected to PayPal's services, letting the user see a list of outstanding payments and check off as many as they want to at one time and pay them all with the click of a mouse.

"You haven't been able to do this before," Ivey said. "In one transaction I settled with four different people."

Thompson hinted that micropayments of this type and others will be a big part of the announcements and public debut of PayPal's open APIs at the November conference.

"There's a new category of micropayments coming," he said in a press conference after today's announcement.

And, added Bedier, "We think we can be the micropayments engine for the Web."