PayPal's CEO John Donahoe thinks that online payments should make up more than 20% of the global payments market, but right now it only accounts for a fraction of it. One of the ways PayPal is working to change that: courting developers.

The company's Adaptive Payments API was launched in November 2009 at the PayPal Innovate X 2009, and since then, PayPal has recruited thousands of developers and seen millions of dollars transacted using its developer platform.

But for developers, accepting payments through the Adaptive Payments API had a major downside: users were required to sign in or sign up for PayPal account. But not all developers liked that. So PayPal, listening to developer feedback, announced yesterday that it has launched Guest Payments:

Our developers asked for an easy way to accept credit cards using our Adaptive Payments API and that’s why I’m excited to unveil Guest Payments today. Guest Payments allows developers to collect credit card payments without requiring their customers to open a PayPal account, eliminating the complications merchants, developers and startups face in accepting credit cards.

Although this seems like a small move, it's an important one for PayPal. In making it, PayPal had to weigh competing interests: boosting the PayPal brand (and user base) versus giving developers the ability to build payment experiences with less friction. If it's going to capture a larger piece of the global payments pie, in part using developers, PayPal has to be less concerned about its own relationship to the consumer and more concerned about making sure its platform is being used to accept as many payments as possible. In letting developers build apps that don't require users to create a PayPal account to pay, it's clear that PayPal understands that.

This offers a good case study for other companies that operate popular platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. In many cases, companies find themselves conflicted: they want to be a 'platform', but they also want to maintain a certain relationship with the consumer. Doing both can be a tricky balancing act, and at some point, many of these companies will have to make a strategic decision: have the cake, or eat it.

Patricio Robles

Published 29 June, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (9)

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SEO Newcastle

I think this is a good move for Paypal I currently advise clients to use worldpay as I find it the easiest and has the best feedback/complaints process to get problems resolved. That is also something paypal should address, seems to take days to get a response when you have an issue.

about 8 years ago


Website Design Gloucestershire

We use fully integrated Paypal and Sagepay classes within our ecommerce sites, I think Paypal are finally catching up with the likes of Worldpay after riding the eBay wave for so long...and it's probably about time too!!

about 8 years ago

Kevin Galway

Kevin Galway, Head of Business Change at Onecom

I agree, a good move for PayPal.  I hear the death knell starting to chime for Worldpay?

My opinion only and not based on fact, but it seems as though PayPal are finally starting to catch up (and possibly overtake) as a global payment provider?

about 8 years ago

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

This can only be a good thing, I have plenty of issues with Worldpay's payment pages. They are ugly and horribly dated in both html markup and styling. Usability wise they are awful and they don't support any analytics systems.

about 8 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

Good move by PayPal.

I just wish the fees were reduced.

May be time for an Econsultancy review of the major payment systems? :-)

about 8 years ago

Paul Halfpenny

Paul Halfpenny, Technical Partner at McCormack & Morrison

Our best experience has been with Secure Trading - we've encountered issues (mainly revolving around support and turnaround time) with all the other platforms that we've integrated, and this includes Barclays, Worldpay and SagePay.

Worldpay in particular led us a merry dance on one specific project that caused a 3-month delay to launch. And in addition to that, many hours on the phone trying to get access to the only support representative that seemed able to understand their own processes.

about 8 years ago


David Blackwealth

Finally! I've waited so long for this, I enjoy using paypal, but this was a constant thorn in my side. Way to go!

about 8 years ago


global payments

PayPal looks to reduce friction with Guest Payments...........very good post......really smart thinking........I agree to this.........We use fully incorporated Paypal and Sagepay course within our ecommerce sites, I think Paypal are finally catching up with the likes of Worldpay after ride the eBay wave for so long...and it's almost certainly about time too...... Thanks for this informations.....

over 7 years ago


gary mc

i paid for an item on ebay using paypal guest an they got the funds and i didn't recieve the items then the seller kept sending me emails asking if got the items i waited about 4 weeks and then replied now their asking for my pay pal account which i don't want, i was a guest, lesson learned i also kept all the emails you can't contact ebay or pay pal without an account to report the individual, this is all a scam by ebay and paypal if you want to contact either you need an account pass word bla bla bla
rip off paypal guest

almost 7 years ago

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