In one of the more significant API launches in awhile, Amazon just officially released their Flexible Payment Service, FPS. It's a powerful payment service that supports credit cards, bank account debits, and Amazon Payments balance transfers. The service, in limited beta now, competes directly with the PayPal API, the Google Checkout API, and other payment APIs. You can see our new Amazon FPS profile here.
Some details from Jeff Barr's introductory post:
In much the same way that S3 and EC2 allow developers to forget about leasing space in data centers, buying servers and negotiating for bandwidth, FPS shields developers from many of the messy and complex issues which arise when dealing with money. Once again, we take care of the "muck" and developers get to focus on being innovative and creative.
Designed specifically for developers, the "F" in FPS shouldn't be taken lightly. This is a very rich service -- the API document is over 250 pages long.
FPS provides developers with a rule-based processing model. The FPS Gatekeeper system cross-checks the payment instructions from each party in order to confirm the validity of each transaction. Using this model you can create one-time or recurring transactions, transactions limited by date, by amount, or even by a list of authorized senders or recipients. You can even aggregate a slew of micro-payments into a single large transaction that's of a reasonable size for credit card or other payment processing.
Since we've been processing payments for over ten years, we have a really good understanding of the cost and fee structures which are associated with each type of payment method. The cost to process a credit card, a bank account debit, or an Amazon Payments balance transfer differ greatly from each other. FPS exposes these fees directly, passing on the savings to the developer while also making provisions for the volume discounts available when large volumes of credit card payments are processed.
Pricing will certainly be a draw to developers as will the trust that Amazon has established with users, 69 million active users. As Jeff Barr notes, Amazon doesn't have the 'chicken-and-egg' problem of getting a sizable customer base issue for starting a new payments service.
As a side note, it's also worth quoting something else that Jeff Barr points-out: that Amazon's services are inherently for commercial use without requiring any special agreements. This creates a better commercial long tail than many competing APIs and gives them scalability on the business side.
Our customer agreements have always been written so as to allow commercial use of our services, without the need to negotiate any special terms and conditions with us. This might seem like I am stating the obvious, but it isn't; there are many interesting web services out there which cannot be used for commercial purposes without a special license.
I'm sure we'll be hearing lots more about FPS.