Last week, I panned salesforce.com's AppExchange and wrote of my yearning for a platform that "actually takes care of metering and billing on-demand application usage from a variety of vendors." Unbeknownst to me, a company called StrikeIron launched that very platform on the very day I wrote those words — except that the StrikeIron Web Services Marketplace, as its name suggests, is a marketplace for web services rather than complete applications.
In every other respect, it fits the bill. I am bowled over by the transaction capability it offers, as described in the announcement press release:
"This new Web Services Marketplace has been specifically designed for Web services commerce including subscription, purchasing, publishing, account management, billing, payment, security and usage tracking at the micro-transaction level of multiple Web services among multiple users."
In an interview last week with Joe McKendrick (who also blogged the announcement here on ZDNet), StrikeIron's CEO Bob Brauer explained what that implies for users, whether they're service providers (publishers) or consumers (subscribers):
"One of the major things that we're introducing here is the ability to self-publish a Web service that you have. You will be able to come to our site, walk through a series of wizard steps, and set your pricing the way that you want people to be able to use your Web service. We'll walk you through the steps, and you can submit it, and we do a review, and then it will be made available for other people to begin using, and hook into their applications or Website through our network.
"We handle all the billing, the usage, keeping track of how much people are using, provide the reporting to do that, collect the revenue, then we take a few pennies for each transaction, then the rest of the revenue will be sent to you.
"[For users,] we provide a whole single bill concept. If there's 20 different external Web services that you want to make use of, you can pay one bill, pay one way, and have one set of consistent behavior from the 20 Web services, rather than 20 bills and 20 sets of behavior."
When Marc Benioff told BusinessWeek ahead of last week's launch that Salesforce.com's AppExchange was going to be "the eBay of enterprise applications," I immediately assumed that statement meant it was going to have all the on-demand commercialization features Bob Brauer has described above. But AppExchange has none of the micropayments metering, revenue aggregation, single bill presentment and transaction settlement capabilities that Brauer describes. The StrikeIron Web Services Marketplace is everything that AppExchange is not.
But then, AppExchange is everything that StrikeIron's Marketplace is not, as I'll go on to explain in my next posting ...