PayPal wasn't the first company to build an online payment system, but it might as well be the last. With over 50 million registered accounts, PayPal is rapidly becoming a household name. But, as indicated, there have been others; PayPal's predecessors attempted to capitalize on the Internet boom by building new forms of money. But whether this new currency was called Flooz, Beanz, or eCash, it didn't matter, because people didn't buy it. PayPal based its system on plain old dollar bills (not to mention yen, euros, and pounds sterling), which, in the end, turned out to be more valuable than Internet gold.

PayPal's next brilliant move was to identify each account by an email address. That way, anyone with an email account could send money to anyone else just by knowing the recipient's email address. The email proclaiming "You've got cash" turned out to be extremely motivating.

From its beginning, PayPal empowered the little guy to compete in the big world. It made doing business over the Internet easy for individuals, who could attach their bank accounts to their PayPal accounts without requiring a CFO's signature. And the little guy returned the favor. After all, it was the little guys who paved the way for PayPal to become the number one payment system on eBay.

PayPal also removed the technical challenges. PayPal made it possible for an HTML developer to accept online credit card payments from any web page without requiring the years of programming skills necessary to install credit card processing software on a web server. A simple Pay Now button in an eBay auction page became as empowering as the most expensive eCommerce site on the Internet.

For developers, it didn't stop there. Buy Now, Donate, Add to Cart, and Subscription buttons make Internet commerce in all flavors possible. And with innovations such as Website Payments, Instant Payment Notification, and PayPal Web Services, all the power of this eCommerce giant is only a few lines of code away. It's not surprising that PayPal is being touted as the payment platform of the future. But for those who learn what it can already do, it may mean making profits today!