Thursday, June 29, 2006

Google Checkout looks cool!

[Updated: 6/30/06]
Google has launched a new product: Google Checkout (recently referred to as "GBuy" in the media) which allows consumers to purchase items online.

This is cool.

There's a snazzy "video" - watch it. Read about it on the Google Checkout Tour site.

As soon as I saw this, I expected that PayPal's days were numbered... but alas, I no longer think that's true...

What's Going On?
It appears that the way this works is that (as a buyer) you register your credit card(s) on your Google account, and can then use these to make purchases on participating vendor sites without revealing your credit card numbers (or email) to those vendors. Pretty cool. And that seems pretty easy.

PayPal Killer? Not yet...
I recently had the "pleasure" of setting up a very small site with PayPal. The idea was that people would register with the site and could then purchase tickets for a one-time event. Sounds simple. All of the PayPal literature made it sound simple... if somewhat expensive. As a non-business, PayPal would charge (a small site) 2.9% + $0.30 for each transaction. Ouch. Nonetheless, I pressed forward. I was amazed at the difficulty I had interpreting PayPal's documentation and interfacing with their system. As I look back on the guidance given today on PayPal's site, they indicate that custom integration could take a programmer between 2 and 20 days. It took me just under 2 (and I thought that was a long time), so: I guess I'm not the worst programmer out there.

So, when I saw Google announce that they would charge 2% + $0.20 per transaction, I thought: "Wow: that's clearly the end of PayPal... just give it time". I figured the Google docs and API's would be rock solid and dead easy to use.

Not so fast.

I started signing up as a Google merchant... and realized that Google is pretty much set up exclusively for receiving BUSINESS payments... and not person-to-person transactions. I got that hint when it asked me for my business federal tax ID number (or credit-card and social security number). I thought: wow: PayPal never asked for a social security number for personal accounts. I'm pretty sure that I set up my PayPal account long ago with just my name, address, and bank account number.

PayPal lets you "email money" to anybody with an email address.

Maybe this tax-ID/social security number stuff is "just" a new Patriot Act regulation.

Or maybe Google needs something like this to authenticate you... (since PayPal uses 2 "micropayment" deposits to your bank account for this purpose)

I have yet to implement a test-case merchant shopping cart on Google Checkout.

More details to follow...

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