We’d been developing and testing our PayPal subscription flow for Quplo for a month and had almost gotten it completely working when PayPal suddenly decided to change their user-facing checkout wizard. Our code was suddenly broken, and x.com‘s documentation hadn’t been updated to reflect any changes. Nor had the web service code. Even though we probably could have figured it out by looking around the internet and asking people, this entire experience gave us a queasy feeling: pulling the rug out from under developers’ feet, even if it’s just the Sandbox, doesn’t inspire confidence.
PayPal really kinda sucks
In fact, thinking about it now, everything about x.com feels off. The site design is unstable, which doesn’t feel very professional. Documentation – whenever we manage to find it, since the navigation is confusing at best – has been (poorly) ported from an older system, with grammatical errors and conjoined words dotted throughout. Several documents haven’t been updated, despite being inaccurate, in nearly two years. Developers complaining in the comments section or asking for corrections are getting ignored (“I’ll get back to you with an answer!” one PayPal community person said 8 months ago. This was the last comment on that page).
Don’t even get me started on the arbitrary rules they require you to follow in order to use the service: ugly “Check out with PayPal” buttons in your checkout process, and forced setting of PayPal as the default payment option. No thanks.
We decided to look around at alternatives again. But the results weren’t that much better.
ClickAndBuy is a British-based payment platform that wraps credit card, debit and various country-specific services. Looking through the documentation, it seems well put together and clearly written. The site itself is a bit confusing (as a developer, I don’t expect to click on “Partners” in order to see API docs), but all in all it looks quite reliable.
Unfortunately, ClickAndBuy “only” has 13 million users worldwide. That’s not much if you consider there are 2 billion internet users.
Twyp is a Dutch payment provider owned by ING that supports credit cards, the Dutch iDeal payment platform, and PayPal, as well as a couple of other international payment platforms. You pay a pretty hefty monthly rate but Twyp only gets € 0.35 off each transaction, which is relatively low given that most providers also require a 2.9% fee. At the same time, Twyp charges for ridiculous things like being able to display a logo on the payment page over SSL (2 cents per 20kb!).
And that’s before you start trying to implement it, which quickly turns into a huge mess. You know the feeling where you’re trying to implement a web service, but it feels like it was both overspecified and written in 1990? That’s sort of how Twyp feels.
Amazon Flexible Payment Service
Considering how well Amazon has handled transforming its business framework into scalable services with things like S3 and EC2, you’d imagine the Flexible Payment Service, or FPS, would be a great match for a little company in the Netherlands.
Well, despite having a great site, documentation, and feeling of community, there’s one problem:
Q: What countries and currencies are supported by Amazon FPS?
Amazon FPS allows U.S. as well as international customers to use major credit cards to make payments on Amazon FPS-powered websites. However, bank account and Amazon Payments account balance transfers are enabled only for US based customers. All transactions are in U.S. dollars.
It only supports USD and US based accounts. So much for that.
Surely Google would have figured this out? We eagerly headed to the Google Checkout Merchants site, hoping to find a simple, straightforward, excellently documented, developer-friendly site just waiting for us to give them a cut of our income.
Instead we found that Checkout is only available to merchants in the US and the UK. Bummer.
It’s a jungle out there
So, if you’re in the Netherlands and you just want to charge your customers for the service you’re providing, it looks like you can go fish. Sure, you can settle for the apparently unstable PayPal platform. Or you can choose ClickAndBuy, and force a semi-unknown brand on your customers. Twyp wraps credit cards, but prior experience has taught us that implementing is an archaic nightmare. On top of all that, neither of the thought leaders, for developers anyway, support our country right now.
In other words, we’re shit out of luck.
Do you have any experience with integrating payment services for European countries other than the UK? Which services have worked for you? Are we misunderstanding something about the providers we already looked at? Let us know!
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