Home > amazon, smugmug > Amazon Flexible Payment Service (FPS)

Amazon Flexible Payment Service (FPS)

August 4, 2007

To answer the questions, yes, we’re definitely going to be using FPS in a big way (millions of dollars per year) shortly. We aren’t, though, going to be using the part that all the press are talking about – the so-called ‘PayPal killer’. We don’t talk about un-released features at SmugMug, so I’m afraid I have to leave it at that – but feel free to speculate. 🙂

On a personal note, I’m really excited about FPS because, like many, I hate PayPal. When we were getting SmugMug off the ground, I was interested in using PayPal either as our main payment option, or at least as an alternative. Their developer support was terrible, though, and the ability to do big batches was apparently nonexistent. I even knew people over there, and they’d just shrug with a ‘what can you do?’ look on their faces when I’d ask them if we could use their stuff.

Definitely not Amazon’s approach. 🙂

UPDATE: Apparently I was too abstract in my initial post about how we’d be using it, so here’s a quick clarification. We’re not going to use FPS to enable you to signup for SmugMug service or buy prints & gifts using FPS. We have something else in mind. 🙂

Why not use FPS (or PayPal, for that matter) for signup & purchase, you might ask. Our answer is that we’re not totally comfortable passing customers along to a UI we don’t control and isn’t branded at such a crucial point in our monetization process. The establishment of brand, and even more specifically, trust in that brand, is extremely important to us. These are people’s priceless photos, afterall, and we want to be clear on who’s taking care of them. It’s entirely possible we’re shooting ourselves in the foot with this stance, but that’s our prerogative.

Categories: amazon, smugmug
  1. August 5, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I too was very excited about Amazon’s FPS. Having control even at a minute micro-transaction level changes the ballgame. I’ve been working on casual entertainment titles for years and the problem has always been, “well, it’s great to get a .20 cent sale on a new wig for your avatar… but how the heck do we actually get paid for that.

    Nintendo, Sony — all of them have subscription plans that require a user to pay in advance (usually $10+). But that doesn’t really capture the spirit of the casual consumer or micro-payment target segment.

    Anyhow, I’ve been impressed with your site and been tracking in for months. I was thinking yesterday, “I wonder when SmugMug will use this.”

    I’ve got a project we’re working on and are at the “funding” stages. But from the ground up and with every quarter I have left — I plan on finding the right combination of tools to truly scale with our customer. Your site has been a real encouragement and uplift — especially when we’ve been hit with, “There’s no way — you’d need millions in investment for server architecture alone.” I wish to prove them all wrong. I do now carry a few printouts from your blog when I talk to my geekoid friends.

    Thanks for the inspiration and the non-direct mentoring. We need any and all help we can get. And your blog is where I go when I need a little push.



  2. August 5, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Hey Joey,

    Thanks so much for the kind words! It’s comments like these that make me want to post more details more often.

    Thanks a lot! Do holler if there are any specific questions you have – if you’ve got them, chances are other people do as well. 🙂

    Thanks again!

  3. August 5, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Hi Don, we have a very strict “no shrug” policy on my team!

    Seriously, thanks for the post; we will look forward to seeing FPS in action on SmugMug.

  4. Tim
    August 6, 2007 at 11:22 am

    With Amazon FPS, does the “checkout” still happen on *your* site?

  5. August 6, 2007 at 11:52 am


    Like I said, we’re not using the “checkout” feature of FPS. The reason why is that we don’t like to relinquish our user-interface to 3rd parties, including Amazon.

    We’re doing something different with FPS instead…

  6. August 8, 2007 at 11:21 am


    First, I love SmugMug and have recently signed up with a Pro account to start my photography business. You offer a great service, very helpful people and some fantastic features. So, I’m a fan.

    I just want to comment on one aspect of the service that I would like to see improved, and your thoughts on PayPal above reflect exactly how I feel about my brand, though. I want to be able to control my users’ (customers) experience and interface just like you want to control yours.

    Currently I can’t do that with the SmugMug branded shopping cart / checkout and order fulfillment and follow-up services. I don’t want to necessarily hide the fact that I’m partnering with SmugMug, but I want to be able to at least control the color schemes, messages and overall feel of the ordering process.

    I know there’s chatter about this in the forums, but I just wanted to point out that your customers feel the same way about their brand as you feel about yours.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  7. August 8, 2007 at 11:26 am


    I totally get that, but I’m afraid it’s not really an option. There are a lot of reasons, but the two biggest are:

    The whole reason Amazon (and PayPal and Google) force you to hop over to their UI for a little while when using their payment services is that accepting, processing, and supporting credit cards is a dicey proposition.

    Consumers freak out when they see charges on their cards for companies they don’t know, and they end up rejecting the charges. If they didn’t know SmugMug was who was going to be on their card, we’d lose a lot of money.

    Secondly, we get a *lot* of orders that comprise prints & gifts from multiple Pros. So how do we do a style’d shopping cart with multiple Pros jockeying for the prime position?

    Anyway, the issue gets even more complex than that once you get down into the nitty gritty details, I’m afraid.

    I’m certainly not complaining about Amazon or PayPal’s approach – I completely understand why they do what they do. I just don’t want to use them, and luckily, I have that option. I’m afraid my customers, too, have the option of going elsewhere – and some do.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  8. August 8, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    If you are going to use Amazon FPS to pay us when people buy our photos, why not simply say it? I signed up for a test drive, and everything looks way cool. Until I discover that I get paid by cheque, something I haven’t seen here in Europe since the end of the 80s… Real showstopper.

    With Amazon FPS, I’m back in! And happy!

  1. August 8, 2007 at 1:26 pm
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