This week W3C Web Payment workshop was amazing: one hundred registered people, representing all the chain of web payment. From merchants to banks, including payment system providers, from established financial institutions to challenging startupers, from browser makers to mobile network operators. All those delegates agreed to spend 2 days in Palais Brongniard in Paris, to discuss how standardization should be driven in W3C, to improve the integration of web payment in the open web platform. During two days, the audience tried to identify the minimum common agreement to ease end user experience when buying something on the web, and imagine how payment systems could be more efficiently integrated in the the web. In addition to the usual suspects (Google, Mozilla, GSMA, Yandex), the lucky attendees could hear opinion from less talkative companies such as : PCI (payment security certification), BPCE (french bank), SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), Federal US Reserve (the big us wallet), BCS, Rabobank, EU delegate, Ripple Labs, HubCulture pomoting Ven, NACS US merchants. New faces giving their opinion, to usual suspects from W3C.
What can we expect from such event ?
First. Build a tribe. And I think that the workshop was a success. Interaction was key, breaks and dinner also helped people to meet and understand each other. Second. Decide where the tribe wants to go. This is less straightforward. Once everyone understood that it was quite complex to find the right balance between standard and competition, the key mission that became natural to everyone was to understand the roles and concepts handled in the story of a payment transaction. Questions : what is the ideal user experience, what are merchant roles and boundaries, what characteristics define a payment service provider, do intermediaries count, is payment a single service, or does it include quotation management… Understanding the payment steps and splitting that journey into a reliable description. This is for the business and flow side. Another domain identified to be explored collaboratively was related to the technology. When one asked ‘what is a token for you’, depending where you come from, the token answer could have different taste (actualy four different definitions were found). Same for the wallet… So in the end, it was obvious that the tribe needed to build a common understanding.
The necessary consensus.
Lets be clear. Any payment standardization work will not happen if disruptive Ripple Labs promoting decentralized network, does not understand mobile network operators, if Microsoft promoting an e-commerce identity does not listen to EU on privacy, or if merchants are not making their mind clear on virtualized money advantages (a la bitcoin). Off course the matrix of mutual understanding is infinite. But one should note that extreme should carefully listen each other. And this will be a challenge that may take some time. At the same time, it was highlighted that neither Visa or Mastercard or MCX merchants were present, and their voice should definitely be heard, there.
The coming battles.
When covering such a large topic as the payment is, involving so much actors, and when you increase the complexity by taking into account new comers such as bitcoin promoters, decentralized network designers, you can easily identify the big, big, blockers on which this community may fight. The following words sound to me like burning the brains: system interconnection and fee harmonization (right, this could be kept away from W3C landscape), user convenience versus security, user data owner (ouch, that one is the business basement, right ?), privacy by design, identity scheme (fragmented and contradictory visions here).
Where could the tribe start ? small pieces of technology.
During the discussion, it appeared that it would not be possible to build a complete standard solution, to leave a room to existing models and integrate the disruptive ones. So the opposite view was considered: why not designing very small pieces of enablers, such as transaction definition, a transaction flow and related states, a simple intent to pay framework, some auto-filling functions, … This primary list are just ideas, and will definitely enrich during the coming discussions.
Where do we meet next ?
That recently born web payment tribe must follow up. It could gather again either re-using the Web payment community group chaired by Manu Sporny, attached to (but not belonging to) W3C. Or a new group could be created. That plan will be made in the coming weeks, once all the W3C staff had brainstormed on the minutes of the workshop (slides and minutes). Lets wait the official take away from W3C.
You can also read my post related to the Identity, Security and Privacy session, that i moderated here : https://poulpita.com/2014/04/04/about-the-very-simple-question-of-identity-security-and-privacy-in-web-payment/