This document outlines the Web Payments ecosystem by introducing readers to the goals of the ecosystem, messages, roles, and information flow in the system. Links to specifications that define each aspect of the ecosystem in more detail are also included for implementers.

Status of This Document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. Other documents may supersede this document. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at https://www.w3.org/TR/.

Further updates to this note are expected in the following months. This document is not currently in its final form.

This document was published by the W3C Web Payments Working Group as a Working Group Note. If you wish to make comments regarding this document, please send them to public-payments-wg@w3.org (subscribe, archives). All comments are welcome.

Publication as a Working Group Note does not imply endorsement by the W3C Membership. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

This document was produced by a group operating under the 5 February 2004 W3C Patent Policy. W3C maintains a public list of any patent disclosures made in connection with the deliverables of the group; that page also includes instructions for disclosing a patent. An individual who has actual knowledge of a patent which the individual believes contains Essential Claim(s) must disclose the information in accordance with section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.

This document is governed by the 1 September 2015 W3C Process Document.

1. Introduction

This section is non-normative.

This document outlines the Web Payments ecosystem. It starts by highlighting the goals of the ecosystem, then covers the primary types of messages exchanged and the roles of participants in the system. An example use case is then used to demonstrate how roles in the system communicate. Finally, specifications that detail each aspect of the ecosystem in more detail are also provided for implementers.

2. Web Payments Goals

The Web Payments ecosystem strives to support fundamental Web principles by:

In addition to the fundamental Web principles above, the Web Payments ecosystem also strives to:

3. The Structure of Payment Messages

A payment request is composed of the following parts:

Payment Methods
The methods of payment that may be used for processing the payment request. Examples include: credit card, direct debit, SEPA Credit Transfer, and Bitcoin.
Payment Details
Specific information pertaining to the transaction. Examples include: price, transaction reference number, and items being purchased.
Payment Options
A set of information that needs to be collected from the payer in order for the transaction to be fulfilled. Examples include: shipping options, requests for shipping address, and requests for contact information.
Fig. 1 - The structure of a payment request.
Issue 1

A concern has been raised over the structure of a payment request, notably that there are other forms of messages that may be initiated by a payer. There is currently a proposal to modify payment request to a more generalized "payment instruction" that would be capable of expressing other messages like subscriptions, preauthorizations, refunds, and other sorts of payment-related instructions.

A payment response is composed of the following parts:

Payment Method
The selected mechanism that was used for processing the payment. Examples include: credit card, ACH, SEPA, and Bitcoin.
Transaction Details
Specific information pertaining to the transaction. Examples include: transaction reference number, price, and items purchased.
Response Details
Information that pertains to the result of processing the payment including all information requested in the initial payment request. Examples include: selected shipping option, shipping address, and contact email.
Fig. 2 - The structure of a payment response.

4. Roles in the Ecosystem

There are a number of roles and interactions in the Web Payments ecosystem. A role is an abstraction that might be implemented in many different ways. The separation of roles suggests likely interfaces and/or protocols for standardization. The following roles exist in the Web Payments ecosystem:

An entity transmitting value to the Payee.
An entity receiving value from the Payer.
Routes payment requests between the Payee and the Payment App.
Payment App
Processes payment requests sent via the Mediator and returns payment responses to the Mediator. It may communicate with Payment Networks to execute a payment instruction or it may return data so that another entity can execute a payment instruction.
Payment Network
A system that is responsible for transferring value from one entity to another.
Fig. 3 - Roles in the Web Payments ecosystem

As the diagram above depicts, the Web Payments ecosystem separates the following concerns:

5. An Exemplary Use Case

In order to understand how all of the actors and roles in the ecosystem interact, consider the following use case:

Quinn would like to purchase a new laptop using her new security-enhanced credit card.

Payer Registers Payment App

Issue 2

Note that this section is currently speculative and will be updated once consensus forms around a corresponding payment application registration specification, which is currently under development.

In order for Quinn (Payer) to use her new security-enhanced credit card, she must enroll it via her bank's website (Payment App).

Fig. 4 - The Payer Registers a New Payment App

Payer Makes a Purchase

Quinn (Payer) finds the laptop she wants on a website (Payee). She clicks "Buy", selects the information necessary to complete the transaction, and is notified that her purchase is successful and is on its way.

Fig. 5 - Payer Makes a Purchase

6. Implementing Web Payments Software

There are a number of specifications that are of interest to developers implementing portions of the ecosystem outlined in this document.

Payment Methods and Basic Card
Details how payment methods are identified and how new payment methods are specified.
Web Payment Applications
Specifies how messages are exchanged between a payment app and a mediator.
Web Payments HTTP Messages
Message types and content used by the Web Payments HTTP API.
Web Payments HTTP API
Specifies how Web Payments HTTP Messages are exchanged via an HTTP client and server.
Web Payments Browser API
Specifies how messages are transmitted and processed via a Web browser.