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The New York Times this morning has a story about how "the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, has brought together the giants of the internet including Google, Facebook and Apple to fix the clumsiness of paying for things online." The expected result is that "a new global standard for online payments — a sort of Amazon one-click payment system for the entire internet — is being completed by the consortium and its members."

According to the story, "The standard will provide a uniform way for users to input their credit cards and payment systems to any web browser so that they can be used for any purchase on the web. After the card details are entered once, they will automatically be called up as choices for all future transactions. This will be somewhat like the existing auto-fill functions that browsers have. But with the new standard, all the data fields will be filled in invisibly, requiring just one click."

The Times notes that there will be security advantages to such a system, since "rather than sending along all the credit card details, the browser will generate a one-time payment token that will avoid leaving your credit card number in countless databases around the world."

This initiative, the Times writes, is "a challenge to PayPal and Amazon, the current giants of online payments. Both have gained business and fees with their more streamlined checkout processes. Neither company has participated in the current W3C effort and they are likely to continue to provide an alternative to customers who don’t want to enter their details into their browsers.

"But the W3C has managed to bring in about 40 of the biggest players in online commerce, including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and American Express as well as Chinese companies like Alibaba and Tencent."
KC's View:
The story makes clear that there have been other efforts to create such a system, but that this attempt is seen as the one that has the greatest likelihood of succeeding because of the marketing firepower being brought to the table by the various players. And, it suggests that this sort of leap could "open up new types of online commerce that aren’t possible now," like machine-to-machine payments ... in which a car could pay for a parking space.

Which sounds totally cool to me, and exactly where we need to go ... eliminating all the minutiae that can clutter up our lives. (Of course, in the parking lot case, I fully expect to hear complaints about garage attendants being put out of business. I don't mean to be heartless here, but it seems to me that we need to have our eyes and minds trained on the big picture...)