Facebook enters the big league by getting more open

3 04 2007

Facebook released a program called “Thrift” yesterday to seamlessly transition between different programming languages with easy integration.  Now it’s been known that companies have programs like these in house, but none of them have released them for wide use among the public.  Facebook, almost as a declaration that they’re in the big leagues, released this tool for wide use ideally setting a precedent for other companies to follow suit.

I do have to say that open source friendly companies like Mozilla have been extremely beneficial for the Internet in general.  The obvious advantage of an open source platform is essentially free advertisement and usage of the site on alternate websites.  Additionally, developers can build tools that sometimes that can be implemented by the company itself.  Famous platforms like Microsoft, Intuit, and Red Hat have an extremely loyal developer group that constantly provides feedback to the companies themselves.  In essence, they act as third party employees for the major corporation.

Every successful Internet/software company has a thriving developer community.  Two summers ago, I did a research project at PayPal on how to increase developer usage on their platform.  One of the major things I found in the study was that the highest usage for API implementation occurred when users were excited with the product.  Obviously in my case, payments isn’t necessarily the sexiest product out there, but more of a functional platform for users to build their businesses on.  Google Maps API for instance, which had released two summers ago, immediately garnered high response rates as people would integrate bus schedules for certain cities using maps.

Facebook’s tool will be awesome for the average developer, but will it create a rise in users on their platform?  My guess is not really…and the tool isn’t meant to really increase their platform usage.  I do know that social networking API’s can be an effective tool in marketing to mass audiences, something that we’ve started to see.

All in all, facebook made a big move today and I applaud them for providing this tool to developers.  Ideally, there efforts will garner higher usage and cool products to use in the future.

Just my $.02…

-SD





Mobile Payments – good “call”?

14 08 2006

An emerging sector in the market recently has been the rise of mobile payments – P2P transactions predominantly using cell phones. The current interface is making payments using SMS – sending a transaction over a text message, pinging the server/bank, then going back to the other user. This is not too complex of a transaction and has began to gain some acceptance among users, but how far can this go – and what can we really do with mobile payments.

PayPal was the first large e-commerce platform to launch their mobile payments. Currently, with their protocol, you can send payments to anyone in the world using SMS. Obviously, it is necessary for you to have a PayPal account with a stored balance, but the concept is definitely very cool. Like any other market, however, early adopters can only take it so far. It needs a much stronger backing than simple P2P transactions and here’s what I think they can do.

  • Create a barcode system similar to RFID tagging – where people can see products around the stores and purchase them individually – this can also be true with advertisements and such. Since PP and other payment platforms have address verification pre-payment – this is easily a possibility
  • The cell phone wallet system will work well with verification from credit card systems. Currently with PP mobile you can add a funding source as a credit card – but for users that don’t have a PP account – you should be able to sign up using your phone as well – a functionality that may not gain large acceptance but convenient
  • Create a recurring payment model for adding minutes on your cell phone or adding a limited number of text messages – good for US phone companies? – not at all but can be huge internationally when people have to refill their sim cards

PayPal is not the only player in the market right now and will not be in the near future. This market has a lot of possibility but the key question is how to really make money off of something like this. Service based charges? Per use based charge? I don’t think anyone really has the answer yet.

 

Who else?

PayPal is obviously not the only player in this market. In fact, it hasn’t been companies in the US that have been challenging paypal, but rather small start-ups in countries like China and India. “Ji Grahak” is an Indian based phone company where you can download the software and begin to make payments over the phone. Here are some pro’s and cons of a competitor like this though:

Pros

  • Higher market potential – India and China have phone capabilities where you buy the sim card and then the handset separately (a significantly better model than the US one I might add). Therefore, refilling your sim card using online payments only makes sense
  • The number of handsets in these countries are significantly larger – your growth potential based on the number of people using cell phones is significantly higher than in the U.S

Cons

  • The golden rule for any web-based payment company is FRAUD. This is the number one concern and to make it so simple to send money – people will find out ways to hack into other people’s cell phones. Once you lose the trust of the users in a business dealing with your money – it’s very difficult to get it back

Future?

Well – I think there is a high upside to this market but we may not see immediate usage. Like any other technology the world around it has to develop before it reaches ubiquity. Nonetheless – the convenience of being able to transfer money at dinner when you owe someone is incredible. We’ll have to see what happens in the future.

Just my $.02

–SD