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PayPal wants developers

PayPal, the online payment power, wants developers to integrate its payment system into more websites.

And it’s going to show them love at the upcoming EBay Developers Conference in Chicago, says Glenn Lim, head of PayPal’s Developer Network. EBay bought PayPal in 2003.

According to company stats, website developers have a big say in what payment system gets tied into an e-commerce site. In 45% of the cases, a developer actually makes that decision and in another 44%, the developer influences that decision. No wonder PayPal likes developers.

“Payment processing is a relatively small part of the website development process but it’s a really important part,” Lim joked. Apparently people like to get paid. Shocker.

One in four websites already accept PayPal, although many offer alternative Visa, BillMeLater or other payment systems as well, Lim said, And, perhaps most ominously for PayPal, Google is making noises about its own Google Checkout

Given that the guts of a payment system– the transaction handling and security –have to be baked in, it might seem that developers can’t do much in terms of customization. But you’d be surprised, Lim said. The core payment system is really locked down but through open APIs you can develop hooks into QuickBooks so you can pull transactions into QuickBooks or hooks into TurboTax or Excel for inventory monitoring or other purposes.

Will Blanchard, owner of New York -based Lambcast Ltd., makes his living by knowing all about payment systems. With most PayPal alternatives the website would have to get a merchant account, a business license or a line of credit and many people don’t have the proper credit for that. With PayPal, you can set up using an email address and a regular bank account, Blanchard said.

PayPal provides a simple front end to its services but more important are the backend web services and programmable interfaces, Blanchard said. PayPal makes it “drop-dead easy” to add payment options to sites and it also takes care of such worrisome details as fraud detection. Things no developer really wants to worry about.

One Lambcast product lets content creators sell their wares using email or from their blog or other channel. “If you author an ebook and want to sell it for $10 from your blog, we create a new zip format with PayPal embedded in it. Our toolset lets you zip up your ebook at a price and then distribute it however you want,”  Blanchard said.

It’s also more flexible than Google Checkout in that you can split the payments in the case of an ebook or other content with multiple authors. That can be done with Amazon’s FPS system as well, although Amazon supports fewer authors than PayPal.

To be clear, Lambcast works with all of the above options. Face it: If you want to sell stuff online, you need to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy the way they want to buy.

Another PayPal plus Lim cites is that at any given moment, $3 billion is sitting in PayPal accounts and that trove turns over every two weeks.

Not to reiterate the obvious, but if  you’re an online merchant, you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to spend that money with you and not the other guy.

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

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