PayPal plans to have a presence on virtually anything that's connected to the Internet - starting with smart phones and moving to Web-enabled TVs and other connected gadgets - the online payment company's president says.
The aggressive expansion is in line with Scott Thompson's view of a world 10 years hence, where cash and cheques are all but obsolete, and everyone pays for everything the moment they want to consume it, all through the Net cloud.
"The idea that I pay now for something I'll eventually use is going away," Mr. Thompson said in an interview Wednesday. "I want to pay as I consume."
Mr. Thompson was in Toronto to attend Mesh 2010, a Canadian Web conference taking place this week.
With about 84 million customers and eight million businesses using its service, PayPal is perhaps the best-known online payment provider. While its core service is as a payment mechanism on websites, Mr. Thompson says that in about a decade, real-time payments will become the norm in many everyday situations.
For example, he contends that the subscription model for magazines and newspapers will be replaced by direct payments from consumers to their favourite journalists, made for individual pieces of content the moment the customer wants to consume them. The concept applies to various businesses, and is similar to cloud computing: Customers pay only for what they want at any given moment, rather than buying more than they need.
Several hurdles stand in the way of Mr. Thompson's vision; perhaps the most immediate are security and privacy concerns.
Conscious of the rising concern among consumers in an age of open social networks, PayPal's executives are pushing a commitment to keeping data secure as the company's biggest strength. Mr. Thompson made a point to note that PayPal never shares information with any other party, including eBay, which purchased PayPal in 2002 and has since seen its payments division post significant revenue growth.
Nonetheless, Mr. Thompson's vision relies heavily on PayPal achieving critical mass online. The company, which operates in 193 countries, recently signed a deal with Facebook allowing Facebook application developers to receive payments and customers to buy Facebook "credits" through PayPal accounts. The move gives PayPal access to Facebook's 400 million-strong user base. "From where I sit, they're not a competitor," Mr. Thompson said of the social networking site.
However, the company's biggest push is in the mobile world. The PayPal code (used to embed the payment method into mobile applications) is designed such that developers can incorporate it into their software in minutes. The company already has a significant presence on applications made for Apple's iPhone, and announced Wednesday it is making its payments code available to developers using the Google Android platform. Mr. Thompson said PayPal is working on similar code for BlackBerrys, as the company tries to cash in on the smart-phone revolution.