Making Payments Frictionless

We always strive to make using the PaySwarm web platform as simple as possible for developers. With that goal in mind, we are launching a new PaySwarm Developer API and development website today. We are also releasing a demonstration of the PaySwarm web platform as it applies to bloggers, journalists, photographers, newspapers, and magazines.

The new PaySwarm Developer API builds on top of OAuth to provide access to the PaySwarm web platform. The development website provides free developer accounts to anyone that wants to test their PaySwarm application before making it live. New developer servers are now online which provide a sandboxed, REST-based PaySwarm API that Web developers can use to test their PaySwarm-based applications. We have also released a demo, including source code, to show how PaySwarm can integrate with content management systems like WordPress and Drupal.

Saving Journalism

You have probably noticed that the newspaper and magazine industry is in trouble. Journalists must adapt their industry by adding support for new, Web-savvy business models. One of these models is called a paywall, which is designed to block access to a webpage by requiring a subscription or a daily pass.

There are two main problems with paywalls. The first problem is that it is very difficult to charge customers on a per-article basis. Charging a few cents to access an article requires most people to pull out their credit card when it is often much easier to go to another news site.

The second problem is in the cost of subscriptions and the value that they provide. Since using a credit card to pay per-article is a hassle, websites like the Times are thinking of charging a weekly subscription fee. Unfortunately, this approach is also flawed as we often pick our news from many different blogs and websites. Most customers don’t think that they will be able to get enough value out of $3 per week subscription. If one were to read 20 different news sites on a regular basis, $60 a week for news is not within most budgets. Not only is the cost across websites an issue, we often don’t know if an article, or series of articles, is worth the value. Will the site be visited enough to make the $3 count? What if the site isn’t used for 3 weeks? That’s $9 down the drain.

The real solution should take both of these problems into account. Customers should be able to pay per-article across a large number of websites without ever having to pull out their credit card. They should be able to see enough of the article to make a purchasing decision. The idea is simple enough, but how is it accomplished?

The PaySwarm Payment Token Demo

We have put together a small demonstration of how bloggers and journalists could use the OAuth-based PaySwarm Developer API to solve the paywall problem. To run the demo, do the following steps:

  1. Create a free account on the PaySwarm Developer Site and log in.
  2. View the preview article on the demo site.
  3. Click on the Purchase the full article link.
  4. Approve the PaySwarm Payment Token.
  5. View the full article.

Note that there is a link further down the full article page that lets you purchase more and more articles without having to re-verify your Payment Token. Purchasing is as easy as clicking on a link; it is seamless. In fact, the same process could be used for purchasing other digital items, like photographs. A photographer could provide demo or thumbnail photographs on their website along with links to purchase their full-resolution versions.

How PaySwarm Payment Tokens Work

At the heart of the new OAuth PaySwarm API is the concept of a Payment Token. A Payment Token is something that a customer issues to a commercial website; it works like a debit card. The Payment Token has a spending limit, expiration date, account access permissions, and a variety of other per-website options that a customer sets before assigning the Payment Token to a website. It can then be used by a website to charge the customer for services rendered, up to the spending limit, expiration date, and other per-token limitations.

Using OAuth-based PaySwarm Payment Tokens to perform micro-payments on the web has the following benefits:

  • Easy to deploy into content management systems like Drupal and WordPress.
  • Much more secure and safe than credit cards.
  • Simple, integrated customer experience.
  • Flexible payments from $0.00001 to thousands of dollars.
  • Based on open standards like HTTP, TLS, and OAuth.
  • PaySwarm itself is an open, patent and royalty-free standard.

These benefits are further detailed in the full article that is purchased during the demo.

Digital Contracts

There is a section titled Your Purchased Contract in the full article that is purchased during the demo. The section lists a digital contract that is encoded in JSON-LD format. This contract is digitally signed in the PaySwarm system and can be used as a proof of purchase. The burden of managing and tracking these contracts is placed on the PaySwarm provider. In fact, all digital contract and purchase tracking is the PaySwarm provider’s responsibility, ensuring that integrating PaySwarm Token support into a website is as simple as possible. Websites can use the PaySwarm Token to query if the customer has previously purchased a particular asset on the Web.

Since the digital contracts are expressed using Linked Data tools, the contracts themselves are very flexible. Developers are urged to innovate on top of the base contract format including even more detailed asset and license information. A few cases demonstrating the use of JSON-LD to extend a digital contract will be outlined in a future blog post.

Building PaySwarm Applications

In the next blog post, we will discuss how a developer can use the OAuth PaySwarm API to enable micro-payments on their website. We will include downloadable code samples and a detailed explanation of the entire Payment Token acquisition and usage process.