It’s been roughly a month since we wrote about our realisation that PayPal sucks and the start of our search for something better. Initially we felt ignored: no one out there seemed to care about European businesses, at least not at the quality level we wanted.
But over time, we started discovering a couple of services here and there that seem to know what they’re doing. Wow! People like us, out there, solving problems for other developers!
We’re now a couple of steps further down the path of selecting a payment service that doesn’t hate Dutch businesses, and I wanted to share which those were and what’s great and not so great about them. First up, FastSpring.
FastSpring sells itself as a company that does everything around payment processing, merchandising and fulfillment. Especially fulfillment is considered a major feature because, apparently, so few companies do a good job in this area (unsurprisingly).
What’s great about FastSpring isn’t its marketing site. It feels pretty old hat and I didn’t feel like it was talking to me, but to some Sales Director or Marketing Executive or someone (“Experience E-commerce 2.0″?). Somewhere far away from us, anyway. But when I found FastSpring, we were near the end of our collective rope. We decided to take the plunge and see how it looked, so we signed up.
That proved to be an enormous undertaking (yes, signing up). Like many other payment platforms, FastSpring throws such a huge signup form at you that you almost feel like you shouldn’t have started in the first place. And once you’ve filled out this monstrosity, are you actually signed up? Um, no. You just kind of mailed off a sign up request and now you have to wait for them to approve you. “But I just want to integrate payments so I can make money!” I guess this kind of thing is standard in the payment services industry.
Fortunately, FastSpring responded pretty quickly with a test account, and this is where things started getting better: their backend is pretty decent. It feels like it was overdesigned to the point of being too generic (like everything is a programmer-approved List<View<T>> or something), but it works pretty well.
The best part? Pragmatism: if you live in Europe, where FastSpring can’t get you money, they just ask for a PayPal account and they’ll wire you the money there. Why can’t everyone else just do this?
So far, so good: FastSpring doesn’t try too hard to get you as a customer, but once you’re in, it’s hardly the worst thing I’ve ever seen. In fact, once I got in touch with their lead developer Ryan, things shifted into a higher gear. Their API is very straightforward, involving HTTP POST most of the time and nothing like the complex handshake procedures PayPal imposes on anyone trying to integrate.
The only problem is that FastSpring doesn’t yet support recurring payments, something which is pretty inconvenient considering Quplo is a subscription-based service. They do have some basic recurring payments stuff running in private beta, to which we were invited and which looks as impressive as everything else, but we’d have to wait a few months before being able to start using it. In the realities of business, where Q42 would sort of kind of like to see a bit of return on investment on Quplo if you don’t mind thank you very much, that’s a hard sell.
All in all, FastSpring is pretty damn great compared to PayPal. But it’s not perfect. It doesn’t support some things we’d like, and its recurring payments won’t go live for another few months. So although it’s on our shortlist, we need to consider some other services before we make any commitments.
Join us in a few days when we talk about Chargify, the next service on our Payment Provider Shortlist.
Update: Part 2 now available!
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