Alternative Payment Systems, Part 1: Amazon Flexible Payments Service
Since its inception, PayPal has worked with partners and merchants to build what I believe is the best overall online and mobile (and increasingly, offline too) payments system available today. More recently, they have listened to the development community to learn how to best make this system available to developers. The result: The PayPal X Platform.
I write a lot about the PayPal-based payments and solutions on the PayPal X DevZone. But it seems to me that in order to fully appreciate PayPal capabilities, and how developers can best use them, one should consider how they relate to alternative payment systems and options.
This article is the first in a series in which I’ll examine alternative payment systems. This time around I’ll introduce Amazon’s Flexible Payments Service (abbreviated as “FPS”). I’ll discuss what FPS is, where to go to learn more, how to use it, and how it compares to PayPal’s offerings. Future articles will look at other payment systems.
What is Amazon FPS?
Amazon FPS is a part of the Amazon Web Services (aka “AWS”, collectively on Twitter at @awscloud) cloud-based technologies and solutions. The full breadth of available AWS services are beyond the scope of this article; I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to visit the AWS site and learn more if interested.
Let’s focus on the general purpose payments portion of AWS offerings, Amazon FPS. Amazon says the following about FPS on its homepage:
It is built on top of Amazon’s reliable and scalable payments infrastructure and provides developers with a convenient way to charge Amazon’s tens of millions of customers (with their permission, of course!). Amazon customers can pay using the same login credentials, shipping address and payment information they already have on file with Amazon.
As you can see, FPS is meant to provide a single cross-merchant payments mechanism similar to PayPal’s platform. Amazon goes on to note:
With Amazon FPS, developers can accept payments on their website for selling goods or services, raise donations, execute recurring payments, and send payments.
FPS is starting to sound similar to PayPal’s Adaptive Payments, isn’t it? We will dwell on this further later in the article. For now, let’s look at where you can go to learn more about FPS if you’re so inclined.
If you’d like to dive deeper into FPS, the first place you should visit is the FPS homepage.
From there you can link to a variety of developer and consumer oriented documentation and information including:
- “Service Highlights for Developers” explains the advantages to the FPS system as Amazon sees them; a key point here is that Amazon promises that FPS should be low friction for existing Amazon customers.
- Amazon also provides a similar “Service Highlights for Consumers” listing reasons why they believe consumers may like using their system.
- “Amazon FPS Functionality” discusses FPS “quick starts”; more on this below.
- “Pricing” gets down to the nitty gritty of what it costs to play in the FPS world; I’ll compare this with PayPal costs later in this series.
- “Developer Resources” links to a resource center for code samples and documentation, FPS developer discussion forums, the Amazon FPS Sandbox (again, this should seem very familiar to PayPal developers used to the PayPal Sandbox), an Amazon Payments site that lets you manage your account through a web browser rather than via the Account Management Quick Start mentioned previously, and FPS FAQs.
FPS Quick Starts provide simplified API sets meant to help developers implement common transaction types. Example Quick Starts include:
- Basic Quick Start for one time payments
- Advanced Quick Start for periodic or delayed payment features required by subscription and usage-based services
- Marketplace Quick Start to facilitate transactions between buyers and third party sellers (taking a cut for your facilitation)
- Aggregated Payments Quick Start for bundling up multiple payments (micropayments are possible) into a single larger transaction
- Account Management Quick Start for programmatic access to FPS account activity
In order to get started with FPS, you do need to create an Amazon Payments Sandbox account. You can do this by clicking on the “Sign Up for Amazon FPS” button on the FPS homepage and then logging in with an existing Amazon account or creating a new one. This will take you to the FPS signup page:
You can skip the rest of the signup for now and start using the FPS Sandbox immediately via the link at the lower right. Doing so gives you a success page similar to:
and from there you can click to get to the Sandbox homepage:
At this point you would be setup to access the “Amazon Flexible Payments Service Getting Started Guide” and create Sandbox accounts for testing. You could also read through the guide, download the FPS SDK for your preferred language (Amazon provides C#, Java, Perl, and PHP SDKs for using the RESTful FPS API as of this writing), and start developing using the FPS web service for payments.
Click here to read the complete article on the PayPal X Developer Network including a comparison of FPS to the PayPal X Platform and Adaptive Payments.