“A big part of the strategy is to be able to harness the innovation of others in the developer community to really push our business forward,” said Josh Peirez, MasterCard’s chief innovation officer.
E-commerce and mobile payments are changing the way we use money, Mr. Peirez said. Though MasterCard, Visa and other payment companies have experimented with building their own apps for things like mobile money transfers, MasterCard wants to see what other people can come up with for paying online and in the real world.
“You’re seeing quite different ways people are paying for digital goods, but you haven’t really seen that translate into physical goods,” he said. “It’s still really hard to buy a physical item from your phone.”
MasterCard has already built a few apps, including the MasterCard ATM Hunter iPhone app. But if outside developers wanted to use its payment technology, they have had to get a merchant agreement, set up the payment system and make the consumer enter data each time. No one wants to do that.
Developers could use the new open platform to embed a payment feature in virtual games or in e-commerce apps on Twitter or Facebook, or to build an app that sends a text message to the card’s owner before a purchase is made, for instance.
But the most creative uses of MasterCard’s technology will be those that MasterCard hasn’t even thought of, Mr. Peirez said.
MasterCard is following in the footsteps of PayPal, which opened its platform late last year. Developers have built apps like MyHomie, a Web app for roommates and families with to-do lists, calendars and a bill payment system, and GoSqueesh, a group buying service like Groupon.
So far, MasterCard has identified about 20 of its services that developers will be able to use in their applications. They include payment technology, bill payment systems and data streams like consumer spending patterns, which could be used to send coupons.
Developers will be able to tap into the platform by the end of the year.
MasterCard is also working on a way to share the revenue that developers get from payments.