Webreakstuff blog

Amazon does it again: Flexible Payments Service

I still don’t know exactly what it is, but I’ve posted about it a couple of times. Amazon has an eye for building an underlying layer of services to empower the new web. From their storage service (S3), to the Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) – both of which we use on Goplan, our project management solution -, to the Simple Queue Service (SQS) and now their Flexible Payment Service (FPS). No wonder I think these guys rock (and Amazon stock does seem to agree).

What is the Flexible Payment Service

FPS allows you to accept payments ranging from cents to thousands of dollars by leveraging their API. Amazon is pretty much making their payment system (used to charge for S3, EC2 and the other services) available to developers, for their own apps. Here’s the rundown in the words of Jeff Barr (via the Amazon WS blog):

We’ve taken all that we know about dealing with credit cards, bank accounts, fraud checking and customer service and wrapped it all up into one convenient package.

In much the same way that S3 and EC2 allow developers to forget about leasing space in data centers, buying servers and negotiating for bandwidth, FPS shields developers from many of the messy and complex issues which arise when dealing with money. Once again, we take care of the “muck” and developers get to focus on being innovative and creative.

Some example uses for FPS

If you think about it, it’s really easy to think of ways you can use FPS to build really cool services that would otherwise be hard to bill for. Here’s a few examples, off the top of my head:

  • Twitter could use FPS for a pay-per-use pricing model (hey, so they stop losing money every month). You would pay based on the messages you send. This is by no means my recommendation to twitter, but hey, it’s an idea.
  • We could start using FPS on Goplan to charge people flexibly by number of projects and users, instead of the fixed plans we have now. Should make it much more interesting for people who want to pay based on usage.
  • Online music stores could use FPS to help kids have music allowances that they could use to get new music whenever they wanted, easily.

There’s really a lot you can do with this kind of flexibility, and while I haven’t gone through the FPS documentation myself, if this is as flexible as S3 and EC2, I know this is a winner.

Concluding thoughts

Amazon kicks ass. This could be the only conclusion here, but I’ll continue by saying I’m both pretty excited about trying out FPS on our own services (and those we build for clients), as well as see what other people come up with.

Services like S3 have proven Amazon – despite being a retailer – is also the clear leader when it comes to infrastructure. These guys are helping other developers actually pave the way to new services, not just locking them in like others are. Very smart – definitely very Amazon. I love that company.

Other takes on this story by Robert, John Musser and Pete Cashmore.

  1. Noah Everett says: August 3, 20079:47 pm

    It looks like a great service. The documentation is VERY in depth. They have basically taken a normal payment gateway and added a layer of intelligence to it to do recurring/allowances/micropayments/etc, but most of these features could be programmed into the calling app itself. I myself prefer to have the control in my applications when it comes to these sort of things, but many developers out there will find these features as a coding relief. I haven’t read the documentation completely through, but I wonder if it will require you to allow users to pay/signup with their amazon account or if amazon can be completely transparent to the user. I’d love to know.

  2. Nick Dominguez says: August 4, 200712:40 am

    So does this mean GoPlan is going to change the way they charge their customers?

  3. Fred Oliveira says: August 4, 20071:18 am

    Nick: we haven’t considered it yet – although it is undoubtedly something to think about in the future. We definitely want to explore the possibilities, here. We’ll keep you posted.

  4. Matt Wigham says: August 4, 20074:10 am

    This does look very cool. I just wish it was a behind the scenes thing, and not a co-branded UI like PayPal.

  5. dude says: August 6, 20075:36 pm

    Looks promising, but their transaction rates are pretty high for anything over $10.

  6. Fred Oliveira says: August 6, 20076:26 pm

    They’re actually cheaper than Paypal is, which on it’s own is quite impressive (and definitely a game changer if people start moving over).

  7. johno says: August 23, 20072:58 pm

    They (Amazon) are reall on the ball. This sounds great. I’m certainly considering it. I hadn’t heard about it until I came here, so thanks. I need to read all the documentation; I’m also looking to answer the question posed by Noah above re transparency/branding.

  8. the Tea Lady says: May 10, 201112:21 am

    Hi, interesting although I must say one thing I have not yet read about that should be provided with every online community is a community currency feature.

    The little sods here at social networking platformNetvillage have got an amazing community currency system built all throughout their platform, it allows members to earn and spend for whatever purpose and when you get real creative, you can allow this to spill out into the real community and print your own money that you se between your online community members.

    Think about it for a while, isn’t this just amazing, you can become your own Secretary of the Treasury, have your OWN Federal Reserve, set your own interest rates etc.

    Go on, give it w whirl Shirl, go and see what these little darlings have been doing at social networking platformNetvillage.

    Oh well, I have to go now, bye bye.

    The Tea Lady.

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