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May 21, 2013

Google Checkout Discontinued

Google likes to discontinue products without waiting until it launches some proper replacements. Lately, Google closed products that were used by millions of people. There's a race to destroy everything that was built by the old Google and build new products that are aligned with the most important features of the new Google: social and mobile.

Google Checkout is one of those old products. It was launched in 2006 as an effort to improve online shopping and to offer more value to AdWords advertisers. "One cool feature of Google Checkout is that you can buy from stores with a single Google login – no more entering the same info each time you buy, and no more having to remember different usernames and passwords for each store. To help you find places to shop, you'll see a little icon on the ads of stores offering Google Checkout," explained Google at that time. Google Checkout was free for merchants until 2008, then Google started to increase fees until it moved to PayPal's tiered pricing. Then Google Checkout became less attractive.

Back in 2011, Google launched Wallet, a new product focused on mobile payments. It started as an Android app available for Sprint Nexus S phones that used the NFC chip to make credit card payments at physical stores in the US. Since then, the app started to support a few other phones, mostly from Sprint. Google Checkout merged with Google Wallet, but it still remained a distinct product focused on online shopping and available internationally.

Now Google announces that Checkout will be discontinued. "Merchants can continue to accept payments using Google Checkout until November 20, 2013. If you don't have your own payment processing, you will need to transition to a different solution within six months. To make things easier, we've partnered with Braintree, Shopify and Freshbooks to offer you discounted migration options. If you are a U.S. merchant that does have payment processing, you can apply for Google Wallet Instant Buy, which offers a fast buying experience to Google Wallet shoppers."

Instant Buy is a simplified version of Google Checkout that has no fees because Google no longer processes payments. Instead, Google "passes a Virtual OneTime Card, a MasterCard-branded virtual prepaid debit card product that can only be used for the specific purchase for which it was issued. Using this card, merchants can process payments with their existing payment processor." Instant Buy is tied to Google Accounts and it's faster to use than the regular checkout experience, especially on mobile devices. Right now, Instant Buy is only available in the US.

Since Google Wallet is mostly a US-only service, users outside US will be limited to Google Play, other Google services and some web apps. Google has recently announced that Gmail users in the US will be able to send money using a new button from the Gmail interface. There's also Wallet for Digital Goods, an API for in-app payments limited to web apps, and it works outside US.

For now, Wallet remains a product with limited availability and many disjointed features. The virtual wallet that stores information about your credit cards, coupons, loyalty cards, gift cards, tickets and makes payments frictionless is still a work in progress. Google has a huge opportunity to create a successful product for payments: it owns Google Play, it can integrate it with Android and Chrome, not to mention Google Shopping and Google+. Google now has the most popular search engine, online video service, ad network, analytics service, webmail site, the most popular browser and the #1 mobile operating system.

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