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Alternative Payment Systems, Part 3: Google Checkout

June 27, 2011

This is the third part of a multi-part series examining alternative payment systems and how they compare to the PayPal X Platform and to each other.

In part one I introduced Amazon’s Flexible Payments Service. Part two discussed Facebook Credits. This time we are going to look at Google payments related technologies, focusing most intently upon the currently available Google Checkout. We’ll discuss what it is, where to go to start learning more about it, and the basics of how to use it, along with comparing it with PayPal solutions.

Introduction to Google payment technologies

Google hosted their first ever “Commerce track” at this year’s Google I/O conference in May, 2011. As a part of that track they had sessions on their bread and butter, pre-existing payment technology Google Checkout as well as their up and coming, developer preview In-App Payments technology. Subsequent to I/O, Google has also announced their plan for a NFC-based mobile wallet solution dubbed Google Wallet. So how do these three relate to each other?

Google defines Google Checkout in its developer homepage like so:

Google Checkout allows buyers in over 140 countries to purchase goods and services using a credit or debit card through our fast, secure checkout process. Google Checkout also helps you increase sales with the Google Checkout badge that can be displayed on your AdWords ads and Product Search listings. The Google Checkout badge highlights your store and informs potential customers that shopping with you will be safe and secure.

They go on to say:

In addition, our industry-leading fraud protection program will help lower your costs. Google Checkout’s Payment Guarantee protects 98% of Google Checkout orders on average, which means that for all eligible transactions, we’ll completely reimburse you for any chargebacks resulting from claims of unauthorized purchases and non-receipt of goods.

Key points to note concerning Google Checkout:

  • Google Checkout is oriented towards online purchases of more traditional, in many cases physical goods
  • Checkout is a deployed technology available for production use in many countried around the world today
  • Checkout is “Buy Now” button or shopping cart based
  • Google provides a number of security features and benefits for buyers and merchants including fraud protection and payment guarantees

These features show that Checkout is fairly similar to traditional PayPal technologies including Website Payments Standard and Website Payments Pro including PayPal’s Fraud Management Filters. We’ll have more to say about Checkout details and how it compares to the PayPal X Platform below.

The other two Google payments technologies we need to address are In-App Payments and Wallet.

Google In-App Payments have not yet launched for production, but when they do, they promise to support micropayments for in-application purchases such as game levels, individual digital music files, and Android Market purchases. As such, In-App Payments are very similar in design to PayPal’s Digital Goods with Embedded Payments functionality, a part of Adaptive Payments. Likewise Google Wallet has just been announced for availability at some point in the future; when it is, it looks to be similar to PayPal’s recently purchased Fig Card technology for mobile payments and customer ease.

Note that for this article I want to focus upon currently available solutions and resources so that we can make a fair comparison. Because of this, the rest of the article will dive a bit deeper into Google Checkout. Watch my posts to the DevZone blog for more information on Google In-App Payments and Wallet, including the related lawsuit which PayPal has filed against Google concerning mobile payments.

Google Checkout resources

The Google Checkout developer homepage is the place to go to start learning how to use the technologies required to integrate Checkout into your applications. From there you can read about how to choose between the various Checkout integration options.

Here are the three options along with some notes on what you can do with them and how you would integrate and use them:

  • Buy Now button – sell a single item in one transaction; integrate by copying and pasting pre-generated HTML
  • Online store gadget – multiple items per transaction; manage inventory via Google Docs; embed in Google sites, Blogger, iGoogle; copy and paste as simply as Buy Now button
  • Shopping carts – vary from simple Google provided carts, to ones you build for yourself, to carts available from Google integration partners

More information is available on Google Checkout from the I/O session “Google Checkout: A Foundation For Payments” (click here to view the session on YouTube if the embedded copy below isn’t working for you).

Using the Google Checkout API

The Checkout API has the following major components:

  • Purchasing – Cart API (items being purchased, tax and shipping settings), Merchant Calculations API (callback URL definition for custom calculation of discounts, taxes, shipping values)
  • Fulfillment – Notification API (Checkout sends your server notifications a la IPN), Notification History API (your server can poll for notifications from Checkout should it miss something), and Order Processing API (make processing requests such as charge, ship, cancel, refund, etc.)
  • Reporting – Order Report API (download CSVs order report data)

You can learn the details about implementing applications using these APIs via the numerous links for more information on the Google Checkout Overview page. You can also read through a series of Checkout developer articles and the Google Checkout API.

Click here to read the complete article on the PayPal X Developer Network including a comparison of Google Checkout to the PayPal X Platform.

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