Paycento, a one-click, frictionless payment system that purports to boost internet sales for low-priced online vendors such as newspapers, music and other digital goods, is currently in private beta testing, and the company is actively talking to venture capitalists to raise additional funds.
Nothing unusual about that, you might think. After all, the concept of micropayments is hardly new. But Paycento is different in one major respect: their system allows surfers to make purchases using their Twitter or Facebook accounts.
Paycento, a Belgium start-up founded by former IBM executive Pieter Dubois, will allow website visitors to pay small amounts (which they’re terming ‘casual micropayments’) with a single click, much like the way that they currently use Twitter’s Tweet and Facebook’s Share and Like buttons.
Dubois hopes that Paycento will empower publishers of all sizes to monetize their content. As users are often permanently logged into their social profiles, the checkout would be fast and efficient.
“Those social identity networks also are really identity providers… so we piggyback on that,” explains Dubois. “The payment is really seamless … so it’s like a one click payment on the internet.”
Paycento is seeking to raise around 5 million euros ($6.66 million), which Dubois says will last the company for two to three years.
“We are going to make the full system, where you can really start doing commercial transactions, we would hope at the end of June … July at the latest,” said Dubois.
It’s certainly an interesting concept, but it does raise a couple of important questions. Neither Twitter not Facebook hold a user’s financial details (for example, a credit card), and neither is a particularly reliable indicator of identity (it’s easy enough to setup an anonymous or fake profile on both), which means that Paycento would near to bear this responsibility. And if your financial and identity details are on your Paycento account, why do you need Twitter and Facebook at all? Wouldn’t it be just as simple to check out via a Paycento button, much like we do with Paypal?
I might be missing something but this does seem like an unnecessary extra step. I think micropayments definitely have some kind of future but, as things stand today, I’m not sure that the social profiles as they are right now are ready for this. Nor do I think it’s part of their agenda. And, as usual, it’s a bit of a house of cards, especially if social micropayments take off. What’s to stop Twitter swooping in and doing this themselves?
What do you think? Would you be happy to pay with Twitter?