A Google Wallet tale unfolds

1 November 2005

There are fresh signs that Google is preparing an online payment service, code-named Google Wallet, that would compete with Internet stalwarts eBay and PayPal. GoogleRumors, a Web log (blog), recently reported that a computer file Google uses to scour the Internet to stock its Web site database now has a “purchases” category. Moreover, several other Google watching blogs unearthed a Google “Purchases” registration page, which asks for credit card information. Rumors of a Google online payment system date back to at least June, when Scot Wingo, chief executive officer of Web commerce consultant Channel Advisor, said Google had asked some of his clients to use just such a system. Since then, the rumors have only grown stronger and increased in number. For instance, another recent Google Wallet development involved the Sept. 6, 2005 discovery of a job listing for a Google “fraud operations director, merchant payment solutions.”

Last month, Google would only confirm that Google Earth, one of several Google properties, was using a new payment interface “that is more consistent with other Google products.” In a statement, it said, “We are testing the interface with existing Google Earth account holders who are upgrading or renewing (certain Google) licenses. This migration is one example of the work we are doing in payments.”

Back in June, at the peak of the last Google Wallet rumor cycle, Google confirmed it was planning to expand into broader online payment services to handle payments from advertisers and to Web publishers in Google`s popular online advertising programs, but gave no additional details. Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, in June, stopped short of offering details about Google`s next online payment plans or when the company will introduce a broader service. “The payment services we are working on are a natural evolution of Google`s existing online products and advertising programs, which today connect millions of consumers and advertisers,” Schmidt said in the statement. “We are building products in the area to solve new problems in e-commerce.” Google Wallet, should it indeed be real, is expected to butt heads with major credit card companies and two Internet institutions: PayPal, whose electronic payment system is an Internet staple, and eBay, PayPal`s owner.

For now, though, Google Wallet is largely a creation of the blogosphere, analysts, journalists and other Google watchers, which almost on a weekly basis are unearthing new clues. One of those analysts, Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li, “muses” on her blog that Google could capitalise on its existing ties to thousands of businesses, which already advertise on Google Web pages. eBay flew under Google`s radar long enough,” writes Om Malik, a senior writer for Business 2.0 magazine. Other commentators bring up Google competitor Yahoo`s failed attempt at an online payment system. In 2000, Yahoo created a PayDirect feature, only to shut it down earlier this year.