MasterCard opens up payments API, courts developers

Payments specialist MasterCard Worldwide will be rolling out its open application programming interfaces later this year, hoping to spur new innovations in the industry.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

MasterCard Worldwide is making available its proprietary technology and offering it up as open application programming interfaces (APIs) to entice software developers to create new innovations within the payments industry.

The company, which announced its decision on Wednesday, stated in a press release that by opening up its payments and data services, it hopes to see developers integrate the necessary API codes into their e-commerce and mobile payments projects.

The APIs will be made available through a new developer portal and both will be launched "later in the year", according to the company. Additionally, MasterCard will furnish developers with technical documentation, software development kits (SDKs), sample source codes, reference guides and virtual sandboxes to test out their applications.

"We are excited about tapping into the ingenuity of software developers around the globe to help create game-changing payment applications...[and] we feel this will unleash innovations within our industry, especially in the burgeoning areas of e-commerce and mobile payments," said MasterCard Chief Innovation Officer Josh Peirez in a press statement.

He went on to add that besides payments, the company has identified approximately "20 platforms and services" that it plans to open up to developers. These open APIs will further enhance the development of new applications in the areas of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and payroll systems, among others.

Another MasterCard executive, Garry Lyons, noted that the company had earlier used some of these APIs to create iPhone applications such as the MasterCard ATM Hunter and MasterCard Easy Savings.

By opening up the source codes to developers, the company hopes to see more "mashups" that combine the best of several data sources and programs, he said in the press release.

However, all interested developers will have to be pre-approved by MasterCard before they can access the APIs and other relevant tool kits.

When contacted by ZDNet Asia, the company declined to comment further.

Playing catch-up with PayPal
MasterCard's announcement follows in the footsteps of competitor PayPal, which had opened up its API, PayPal X, to developers last year. According to TechCrunch's Leena Rao, it's too early to say if MasterCard is able to pose a real threat to PayPal.

In her TechCrunch blog post, MasterCard is not the most developer-friendly entity in the business, while PayPal has been courting developers to utilize its APIs since these were launched. Furthermore, PayPal already boasts partners such as Facebook, Salesforce.com and IBM within its stable of API users.

Damon Hougland, the senior director of PayPal X, was also quoted in the article as saying that "thousands of developers have signed up, hundreds of apps have been built and millions of dollars have transacted over our platform".

He also cited the example of Bump as a successful by-product of PayPal X. Bump is a technology to swap information between smartphones by tapping them together, and is used in PayPal's iPhone app. It allows users to conduct mobile-to-mobile money transfer by simply "bumping" one phone against the other.

The app was downloaded more than one million times in the first three weeks of its release, stated the article.

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