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Making Cents From Standards

​From a simple mobile application that can verify payment in a coffee shop to online tools (such as PayPal) to pay for hotel rooms, payment is on the Web in a very big way.

So when the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) declares web payments a topic for discussion, should we pay attention? Yes. When the W3C gets involved, big changes may be coming, and big changes mean big opportunities for us — or our competitors.

But web payments can mean different things to different people:

  • A payment card at an online point-of-sales terminal in a brick-and-mortar store, or
  • An online mobile device (e.g. a smartphone) to pay for goods at a physical store, or
  • An online user paying for goods or services at an online store, or
  • Person to person payment, where the associated devices may be online or offline.

As a result of this diversity of views, a common understanding of web payments and how standards might play a role is crucial to future progress. Consequently, on March 23 and 24, W3C held a Web Payments Workshop in Paris, and more than 90 people attended, representing a broad swath of industries: banking, payment service providers, virtual currencies providers, financial institutions, mobile (telcos), browser vendors, payment standardization bodies, merchants associations and academics. Some names you might recognize include Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Mozilla, HSBC, PCI, EU Commission, the Federal Reserve — and NACS.

Why was this meeting important? It represented the widest range of web payment interests ever assembled in one place, enabling the thoughtful discussion of requirements, common ground and ways forward. It was an effective conversation on what to do next.

The workshop separated the problem into addressable chunks:

  • Identity: Identifying payers and payee, including the role of online profie and geo-location in establishing identity
  • User Experience: With cash payments, buyers respond to well-known cues; what common cues should comprise a web payment experience?
  • Medium: How do non-traditional (e.g. virtual) currencies fit in?
  • Exchange: Looking at fees, interest and spread; how to handle adjustments when converting one non-traditional currency to another
  • Technology: Using advanced Semantic Web technologies, such as JSON-Linked Data to enable complex and instantaneous interactions

Money is on the table in each of these categories, and finding solutions to even some of them could provide big dividends to banks, merchants and consumers.

Gray Taylor, executive director of Conexxus and payments consultant to NACS, and I represented NACS at this event, where he provided the keynote for the session, “Enhancing the Customer and Merchant Experience.”

The next step is the formation of a W3C Interest Group (IG) on Web Payments.  The charter is currently under development and review, with plans to launch the group with a substantial set of participants in the fall.  NACS plans to participate in this group.

 

David Ezell
Principal Software Architect, VeriFone, and Chair, Conexxus POS/Back Office Committee