Fintech

Crypto payments haven't been fast or cheap. Solana Pay could change that.

Circle, FTX and others are supporting an alternative for payments that works with a variety of crypto tokens, including the USDC stablecoin.

Solana Pay

Solana Pay is an open protocol for developers with standardized payment specifications to build on and customize.

Image: Solana

A new way for people to pay with crypto, Solana Pay, is launching Tuesday.

It’s one of many efforts to solve the crypto payments puzzle, from bitcoin’s Lightning Network to stablecoins. But Solana believes it has solved some of the problems that have held crypto payments back.

Companies that helped develop and support the protocol include Solana Labs, which initiated the project; Checkout.com; Circle; Citcon; and digital wallets from crypto exchange FTX and Solana wallets Phantom and Slope. Solana Pay’s backers are also working on an integration with Shopify that is expected to be released soon.

Solana Pay is an open protocol for developers with standardized payment specifications to build on and customize, meaning merchants can connect directly or use software built by ecommerce providers, point-of-sale software-makers or payments companies.

Bitcoin and Ethereum suffer from slow speeds and high transaction costs. While the Solana network is not as big as the bitcoin blockchain or Ethereum’s network, Solana has fast transactions (65,000 per second) and low cost (fractions of a cent per transaction). Solana Pay also has consumer-friendly features: Users can pay in person using a QR code or online using a browser plug-in. The technology works with any Solana-compatible token: Currently that includes its own SOL token as well as others like the USDC stablecoin.

It’s not quite equivalent to a credit-card payment, by design. Solana Pay is meant to be a digital version of a cash payment. That’s attractive for merchants, who can avoid the costs of intermediaries such as Visa or Mastercard or the costs of chargebacks.

“At its core, this is similar to a cash transaction. And the same way you can’t reverse a cash transaction,” you can’t reverse these payments, said Sheraz Shere, head of Payments at Solana Labs.

Still, some merchants and consumers may want protections. Shere said there’s the potential for holding funds in escrow, particularly for big-ticket items like a cruise ticket — a feature which could be built in an upcoming hackathon: “The beauty of this is that this is programmable with smart contracts.”

Solana Pay includes rich data specifications that aren’t available when just sending a token on the network. This includes a standardized destination, currency, amount, transaction identifiers and descriptive text fields so the merchant can confirm that a transaction was completed. The actual details of the transactions, such as who paid and what was purchased, are not public on chain.

Shere, who has worked for AmEx and Google, sees Solana Pay as different from other crypto offerings because of its strong stablecoin integration. He argues that Ethereum is too slow to settle and too costly and Lightning is focused more on paying with cryptocurrency versus exploiting blockchain technology. “We believe the lion's share of opportunity is thinking about this not as crypto payments, but as a new set of payment rails ... but paying in U.S. dollars, U.S. digital dollars.” Shere said.

Currently there is $4 billion of USDC on the Solana blockchain. That’s a distant second to the $44 billion on Ethereum, but it’s still substantial. Circle, the primary developer of USDC, worked on developing the Solana Pay standards, and has integrated Solana Pay with payments software it offers merchants as well as its treasury management product. Joao Reginatto, Circle’s vice president of Product, said it’s the first payment protocol that he’s seen operating on the chain level, versus privately within a company.

Meanwhile, this direct wallet connection with customers opens up new possibilities, Shere said. One example is someone buying shoes with Solana Pay and receiving a matching NFT in the same transaction. Smart contracts could also create offers or rewards that sit in a crypto wallet. That means merchants and consumers will have more incentives to take the plunge in crypto payments.

Entertainment

Niantic is building an AR map of the world

The company’s Visual Positioning System will help developers build location-based AR games and experiences; a new social app aims to help with AR content discovery.

VPS will allow developers to build location-based AR experiences for tens of thousands of public spaces.

Image: Niantic

Pokémon Go maker Niantic has quietly been building a 3D AR map of the world. Now, the company is getting ready to share the fruits of its labor with third-party developers: Niantic announced the launch of its Lightship Visual Positioning System at its developer summit in San Francisco on Tuesday. VPS will allow developers to build location-based AR experiences for tens of thousands of public spaces, Niantic said.

Niantic also announced a new service called Campfire that adds a social discovery layer to AR, starting with Niantic’s own games. Both announcements show that Niantic wants to be much more than a game developer with just one or two hit apps (and a couple of flops). Instead, it aims to play a key role in the future of AR — and it’s relying on millions of Ingress and Pokémon Go players to help build that future.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Workplace

Why it's time to give all your employees executive coaching

In an effort to boost retention and engagement, companies are rolling out access to executive coaching to all of their employees.

Coaching is among personalized and exclusive benefits employers chose to offer their workforce during the pandemic.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Executive coaching has long been a quiet force behind leaders in the tech industry, but that premium benefit, often only offered to the top executives, is changing. A new wave of executive coaching services are hitting the market aimed at workers who would have traditionally been excluded from access.

Tech companies know that in order to stay competitive in today’s still-hot job market, it pays to offer more personalized and exclusive benefits. Chief People Officer Annette Reavis says Envoy, a workplace tech company, offers all employees access to a broad range of opportunities. “We offer everyone an L&D credit that they can spend on outside learning, whether it's executive coaching or learning a new coding language. We do this so that people can have access to and learn skills specific to their job.”

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Enterprise

Microsoft thinks Windows developers are ready for virtual workstations

The new Microsoft Dev Box service, coupled with Azure Deployment Environments, lets developers go from code to the cloud faster than ever.

Microsoft hopes a new cloud service will address one of developers' biggest challenges.

Photo: Grant Hindsley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft hopes a new cloud service will address one of the biggest challenges that developers have raised with the technology giant over the last several years: managing developer workstations.

Microsoft Dev Box, now in private preview, creates virtual developer workstations running its Windows operating system in the cloud, allowing development teams to standardize how those fundamental tools are initialized, set up and managed.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Enterprise

Okta CEO: 'We should have done a better job' with the Lapsus$ breach

In an interview with Protocol, Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said the cybersecurity firm could’ve done a lot of things better after the Lapsus$ breach of a third-party support provider earlier this year.

From talking to hundreds of customers, “I've had a good sense of the sentiment and the frustrations,” McKinnon said.

Photo: David Paul Morris via Getty Images

Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon agrees with you: Disclosing a breach that impacts customer data should not take months.

“If that happens in January, customers can't be finding out about it in March,” McKinnon said in an interview with Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@procotol.com.

Latest Stories
Bulletins