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28 Aug 2002 :: Finally, here in my hands there is the latest album of the "Voltaj" band. Remember the one concert of which we visited at the Black Sea? The album is called "424" and as far as I understand its name represents how many days passed since the preivous CD was released. Whatever... [ more.. ]

16 Jul 2002 :: As a proof of the effectivity of the digital photography, the photos section of the site was enriched with several new shots. There are some among them from a party here in Iasi, from the recent trip to Chisinau on 29-30th June, and some scanned photos from Bicaz... [ more.. ]

31 May 2002 :: I think everyone has already heard about Redhat 7.3 - a new version of the popular Linux distribution. Since ISO images are available for downloading at the vendor's ftp (it cannot be other way), the next day our sysadmin burned 3 CDs for me... [ more.. ]

[ 26th Oct 2003 ] payment systems akbar | 2 comments | leave a comment |

You decided to found a cell of "Al-Quaeda" in your city, but don't know how to organize the funding? Your faithful sponspors are vainly looking for a reliable way to send you money? Do you want to receive funds for Jihad through your web site in online mode? These and other questions I'll try to answer in this note basing purely on my own experience.

The reason I started to think about using online payment systems was not so extreme. Just in one of the days the already known to you friend of mine Wolfram Schlich proposed to add a feature so that users can donate small sums directly from the centericq homepage. By that time the need for such a thing had already became imminent, for thankful users started to ask me how they could send me some money. As you can guess, I wasn't against receiving those money, though didn't have any plan for it to become my main source of income.

PayPal

First I tried to register an account at paypal.com. It's propably the most wide-spreaded payment service on the Net, and it's accepted by a big amount of web sites. It was also the one recommended to me by Wolfram. But it appeared to be made only for "white" people from "good" countries, thus neither Ukraine nor Romania nor Russia were listed there. Not even "advanced" states like Hungary or Latvia were on the list. To my great disappointment, I found out the PayPal's geography was practically limited by the "gold billion" (e.g. Western Europe and America). Strangely enough, India and China are also supported. Though in our situation it's quite a poor consolation.

When I told Wolfram about this injustice, he proposed to use his own PayPal account in order to receive money. He had already written an HTML code which would do the thing. Actually it called the PayPal's web interface with some parameters and that's how a transaction is made. Everything what needs to be done is an HTML form in which hidden fields represent such parameters as product name, e-mail to send a notification to, currency code, tax, and a lot of other things. You can also specify a web page URL to be redirected to in case an error or a refusal occurs.

Money transfer to a PayPal account from a web page is usually initiated by pressing a so-called Buy Now button. The latter submits a form which usually looks like the following:


  <form action="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr">
      <input type="hidden" name="cmd" value="_xclick">
      [ parameters .. ]
      <input type="image" src="someimage.gif" name="submit" alt="some descriptive text">
  </form>

Besides the required "cmd", in money receive forms the following parameters can be used (usually they are defined as hidden):

Parameter Value
business Email address on your PayPal account
item_name Name of the item (or a name for the shopping cart)
item_number Optional pass-through variable for you to track payments
image_url The internet URL of the 150 X 50 pixel image you would like to use as your logo
no_shipping Shipping address. If set to "1," your customer will not be asked for a shipping address
currency_code Defines the currency in which the monetary variables (amount, shipping, shipping2, handling, tax) are denoted

The rest of advanced parameters of such forms are described here (the documentation is only available for logged in users). That's it. The button is ready, and now everyone who wants to donate can click on it and send some money. As soon as a transaction is done, an e-mail message is sent to the PayPal account adress. Sender's details, sum and other details are included into the message. The payment page that appears on pressing the button is protected with the HTTPS protocol.

So we conclude that integration with web can be implemented easily. If you have a free project and don't mind your users donate, or you have a web shop, it's highly recommended to support the PayPal payment system. There is a big chance that a potential customer would have a PayPal account. In case you don't have a bank account or live in a "wrong" country you can ask some friends of yours who live in one of the supported locations. You can also ask them to create a separate bank account for you, associating it with a PayPal account. As to receiving of cash, it's possible to do it in many ways. The simplest of them is to use Western Union wire transfers.

Fly in the Ointment

Due to great popularity, during all the time of its existance, PayPal became surrounded by a lot of scary tales. Some of them are rather real, when because of hackers' actions people really lost their money. But some of the tales are just funny. Like, in this article by slashdot it says that hackers "based out of South Ural, Romania" (the guys probably missed their geography lessons back in school when learning Europe; South Ural is not in Romania), created a web site with the domain name of paypai.com. The site mimicked exactly the official one of the respective payment system. They say, a lot of inattentive users got cheated by it. If you want to see the whole list of the scary tales, consider visiting paypalwarning.com.

WebMoney

As to the rest of the world, unsupported by PayPal, people here didn't waste time either. The fact that on the list of currencies supported by WebMoney there is RUR (Russian rouble) right after the dollar makes me think it's a Russian invention. Needs to say, this payment system is very popular on whole the ex-Soviet space.

The reason I started considering WebMoney was just like that with PayPal. Some other thankful users asked me how they could donate. They were from Russia, so they couldn't use PayPal which was already supported on the site. One of the guys kindly proposed to teach me how to use the system, and also how to implement a web interface to sent donations right from the web page of the program.

The whole thing is simple. First you need to go here and register. A nice feature is that unlike PayPal, you won't need any plastic card nor a bank account here. Once you registered, you need to generate your certificate and save it in a safe place, just like the instruction says. There are two ways to manage your accounts (purses): WM Keeper Classic, a program for Windows (you guess why it didn't suit me), and a web interface whose name is WM Keeper Light. The latter works great with Mozilla in Linux. Thus, it makes sense to choose it in case your situation is similar. The Light version can be accessed by the following address: light.wmtransfer.com (certificate loaded into your browser required).

With the help of the two described solutions it's possible to manage pursues, e.g. create and remove them, transfer funds, send and accept invoices. I know nothing about Keeper, but WM Keeper Light is quite a simple to use thingie. Every purse has its own identificator whose first letter means currency. Like, R means roubles, Z -- dollars, E -- euro. For example, the purse for donations for my free software development is Z846530103960. It's in dollars.

Integrating WebMoney with web is quite a trivial task, though it implies some more work in comparison with PayPal. While the latter has its own page to enter transfer details, here you'll have to create it yourself. Also, initial parameters are set with the help of a web interface from the merchant.wmtransfer.com site. Here it's possible to define an e-mail address where notifications are to be sent to, and pages to which users are to be redirected in case of successfull transaction or on failure. However, these parameters can also be overriden with hidden fields in a payment form. This is controlled by the setting called "Allow URL overrides from Payment Request Form". In rest, such a form has only two required parameters:

Parameter Value
LMI_PAYEE_PURSE The merchant's purse to which the customer has to pay
LMI_PAYMENT_AMOUNT The amount the merchant wants to receive from the customer

Apart from those mentioned above, there are also LMI_PAYMENT_DESC -- payment description (comment), LMI_RESULT_URL, LMI_SUCCESS_URL and LMI_FAIL_URL, that are available only in case the overriding feature is turned on. Detailed description of the web integration can be found here. A simple donation form code would look like the following:


  <form method="post" action="https://merchant.wmtransfer.com/lmi/payment.asp">
      sum to donate (dollars):
      <input type="text" class="ctext" name="LMI_PAYMENT_AMOUNT">
      your comment:
      <input type="text" class="ctext" name="LMI_PAYMENT_DESC">
      <input type="submit" class="cbutton" value="Donate">
      <input type="hidden" name="LMI_PAYEE_PURSE" value="Z123456789012">
  </form>

Vendors Certification

This stuff is really strange. In the Russian version of this article I wrote that in order to switch a purse from test mode into active so that it can receive payments, one needs to get an additional certificate of trust. It costs several WMZ, plus one should sent them copies of his documents such as passport or something. When I was translating the article into English, I tried to use the web interface in English and it allowed me to switch without any problem or additional steps! Crazy.

Other Features

Besides online operations with money, WebMoney allows it to check out funds in cash by transferring virtual sums to accounts of checkout points. Also there are gateways from WM into Western Union and MoneyGram. This means your own money can come to you like a regular wire transfer through one of the two services. The only thing I haven't found yet is a possibility to conver dollars from PayPal into WMZ. It's highly recommended to watch news at the official web site: information about new services offered by the system sometimes appears there.

Probably these two systems should be used to receive funds online. One for the West, and another for the post-Soviet space. The idea is that many people nowdays are afraid of using credit cards directly. So maybe it's already time to forget services that use this method of payment and make your site support both PayPal and WebMoney.



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