Even in the often-conservative financial industry, nearly every major player allows individual developers to access data streams and data sets. For example, Visa and MasterCard have dedicated developer sites where dozens of APIs can be accessed.
The ease of use and depth of these sites are some of the most prominent examples of an industry trend more than a decade in the making.
Traditionally, finance and payment companies jealously guarded access to test their functionality. Access to this information required close relationships with companies – something that was traditionally available only to large, established players. The importance of this change is hard to overstate. We are at a point now with payments similar to when Facebook opened its platform to developers almost ten years ago, spawning an entire ecosystem of applications both on and off of the site.
Companies are now providing open data sets to potential and current developers, lowering the barriers of entry and encouraging innovation. These developer tools and sandboxes eliminate the need for hosting feeds and other batch infrastructure, allowing developers to simply start building a new application with nothing more than an Amazon Web Services account.
Additional payment specific elements no longer need to be built from scratch – they are available on demand. Need to take payment? Sign up for a Stripe account. Need instant messaging in your application? Twillo adds texts messaging capabilities for a fraction of a cent. Need to issue cards of your own? Marqeta can make that happen. We are now in a position where it’s easier for developers to create faster, more customizable, and flexible payment products. The only limits are starting to be ones of imagination, rather than technology and access.
Now that this transformation is in place, change is now in the hands of the community. We are beginning to see innovation from unexpected areas, either from developments far from traditional programming hubs in Silicon Valley or from small teams creating products in their off hours. Development and deployment times are reducing, allowing products to come to market quicker once a need is met. It also allows for more frequent iterations – meaning programmers can be responsive to positive or negative feedback from users in real-time.
The opportunity for payment innovation is immense. For developers building products that require cards, whether it is virtual, physical, or mobile, there is now an easy and quick way to integrate into your applications. Examples include e-commerce enablement or business-to-business payables with virtual cards, a new card plastic for contract workers to receive immediate payments, or instant issuance into a digital wallet directly from an app.
Major players in the payment industry will continue to support these initiatives. For the issuers, the number one measure of success is transactions. New and innovative APIs are encouraging more transactions, and ensuring that a generation raised as digital natives can buy and spend in ways that are familiar to the ways they spend the rest of their lives. Expect APIs to continue to be an important role in developing the faster and better applications of tomorrow.