Oh hai, developers: Braintree may have just won the payments war with its new ridiculously simple SDK
There are two key narratives that have framed the race for digital payments supremacy over the last several years: Mobile commerce experience and ease of implementation for developers. On the former, Braintree has been the early innovator and the clear category leader. On the latter, Stripe has been considered best in class and had a lot of the Valley startup buzz. This has played out with Braintree winning many of the largest and highest profile accounts in Uber, AirBnB, and Dropbox, with Stripe owning the long tale.
Even our own Paul Carr cried uncle trying to implement Braintree several years ago, and Pando today still uses Stripe as a vestige of that lousy onboarding experience and our subsequent NSFW acquisition.
Braintree -- backed now by the considerable might of PayPal -- is no longer content with that world and is about to unleash a full-on onslaught to woo developers starting with today's launch of a new payments SDK.
The company’s new Braintree v.zero SDK delivers what it describes as “slick buying experiences, [offering] customizable drop-in UI features across platforms” including desktop and mobile Web as well as native iOS and Android. What this means is that rather than developing payment and checkout experiences for each of their various platforms, developers can now drop in 10 lines of code and instantly deliver a world class payments experience wherever they interact with consumers. This includes mobile optimized checkout flows, support for all major credit cards and 130 foreign currencies, and access to the company’s fraud protection and account updater tools.
“We say it takes 15 minutes or less, but we recently held a hackathon in Chicago around this new SDK and the record for a full integration was three minutes,” says Braintree CEO Bill Ready. “I’m not saying it will be quite that quick for all companies, regardless of the complexity of their offering, but I can promise that we’ve build something orders of magnitude easier than anything that’s existed before.”
Beyond this now simplified implementation, Braintree is, for the first time, allowing developers to accept payments through PayPal without needing to do a separate integration. Any merchant on the Braintree platform can now seamlessly accept payments from PayPal’s 148 million active customers. From an end-user perspective, consumers can either enter their PayPal credentials on a transaction-by-transaction basis, or store these credentials within Braintree for one-click future payments using the platform. This is something Stripe has been quietly and openly asking for -- even passive aggressively in comment threads of HackerNews -- for some time. It's clear now, the competitive reasons PayPal hasn't granted it.
Ready writes in a company blog post today:
When we joined the PayPal family earlier this year, we said that we’d continue our mission to make it extremely simple to access the most sophisticated payment tools, including PayPal. This is the first example of that with much more to come.The final big difference between v.zero and Braintree’s legacy SDK is that the updated offering is “future proof” for both the company and its clients, according to Ready. Future feature updates to the Braintree platform will be seamlessly rolled out without requiring any additional integration or development work on the part of clients, the company promises.
Braintree has committed to ongoing support for its legacy SDK, with Ready telling Pando, “We’ve committed to never breaking backward compatibility. But we think that we’ve added enough value and made switching easy enough that most people will choose to use the new SDK.”
At launch, GitHub, Jane.com, ParkWhiz, and Chargify are among those beta customers already using aspects of the new SDK, Braintree says, with Twilio committed to integrating it within weeks. All of these companies have seen an uptick in customer acquisition since adding the Pay with PayPal option, according to Ready, who notes that 11 percent of Jane.com’s transactions now occur through that channel.
“Our whole premise since the very beginning has been that mobile will be the No. 1 computing platform, and because of that early bet, we’ve processed billions more in mobile payment volume than anyone over the last several years,” Ready says. “We think that volume and experience puts us in a better position than anyone to answer the question ‘what does a great mobile checkout experience look like?’ Our answer to that question is reflected in this new SDK and we’ve tried to make it easier than ever for developers to roll that out to their customers.”
With Braintree and Stripe still in the midst of a fierce battle for the crown of payments 2.0 victor, today’s product update raises questions about where this leaves the company’s still independent -- and yet insanely highly valued -- challenger. Braintree already has most of the marquee customers in Silicon Valley including and we’re hearing that it is running hard after the big ones not currently on its platform. We know at least one high profile logo may soon be switching teams.
“The only way to deliver a truly frictionless mobile buying experience is to connect a very large number of consumers and a very large number of merchants,” Ready says. That's ultimately the reason PayPal has remained so strong, even with a demonstrably worse product.
Braintree may have sold but that wasn't an "exit" of any type. If anything Ready seems to be competing even harder. For my money (and since Pando is actually a Stripe customer, I really only mean that figuratively), it's impressive that Braintree has upped its competitive game since joining the almost unbeatable PayPal hegemony. It could have just coasted, and still competed with Stripe handily.
The biggest uncertainty facing Braintree today is the leadership position at its parent, PayPal, following David Marcus’ abrupt departure last month. We’ve already made our case for why Ready is the natural choice to fill that role, which if we’re right could mean that he will soon have even more control over the future of the payments landscape. Given the direction he's taking the company, that's potentially even more good news for developers.