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Mumbai University > Information Technology > Sem 7 > E–Commerce & E-Business
Marks: 5 M
Characteristics of online payment system:
Since payments involve actual money, payment systems will be a prime target for criminals. Since Internet services are provided today on networks that are relatively open, the infrastructure supporting electronic commerce must be usable and resistant to attack in an environment where eavesdropping and modification of messages is easy.
As more commerce is conducted over the Internet, the smooth running of the economy will come to depend on the availability of the payment infrastructure, making it a target of attack for vandals. Whether the result of an attack by vandals or simply poor design, an interruption in the availability of the infrastructure would be catastrophic. For this reason, the infrastructure must be highly available and should avoid presenting a single point of failure.
As commercial use of the Internet grows, the demands placed on payment servers will grow too. The payment infrastructure as a whole must be able to handle the addition of users and merchants without suffering a noticeable loss of performance. The existence of central servers through which all transactions must be processed will limit the scale of the system. The payment infrastructure must support multiple servers, distributed across the network.
For some transactions, the identity of the parties to the transaction should be protected; it should not be possible to monitor an individual's spending patterns, nor determine one's source of income. An individual is traceable in traditional payment systems such as checks and credit cards. Where anonymity is important, the cost of tracking a transaction should outweigh the value of the information that can be obtained by doing so.
The usefulness of a payment mechanisms is dependent upon what one can buy with it. Thus, a payment instrument must be accepted widely. Where payment mechanisms are supported by multiple servers, users of one server must be able to transact business with users of other servers.
The acceptability of a payment mechanism is affected by the size of the customer base, i.e. the number of users able to make payments using the mechanism. Merchants want to sell products, and without a large enough base of customers using a payment mechanism, it is often not worth the extra effort for a merchant to accept the mechanism.
Alternative forms of payment are needed, depending on the guarantees needed by the parties to a transaction, the timing of the payment itself, requirements for auditability, performance requirements, and the amount of the payment. The payment infrastructure should support several payment methods including instruments analogous to credit cards, personal checks, cashier's checks, and even anonymous electronic cash. These instruments should be integrated into a common framework.
Users of the Internet will select financial instruments that best suit their needs for a given transaction. It is likely that several forms of payment will emerge, providing different tradeoffs with respect to the characteristics just described. In such an environment it is important that funds represented by one mechanism be easily convertible into funds represented by others.
Royalties for access to information may generate frequent payments for small amounts. Applications must be able to make these "micropayments" without noticeable performance degradation. The cost per transaction of using the infrastructure must be small enough that it is insignificant even for transaction amounts on the order of pennies.
Ease of integration
Applications must be modified to use the payment infrastructure in order to make a payment service available to users. Ideally, a common API should be used so that the integration is not specific to one kind of payment instrument. Support for payment should be integrated into request-response protocols on which applications are built so that a basic level of service is available to higher level applications without significant modification.
Ease of use
Users should not be constantly interrupted to provide payment information and most payments should occur automatically. However, users should be able to limit their losses. Payments beyond a certain threshold should require approval. Users should be able to monitor their spending without going out of their way to do so.
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