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Thursday Grok: PayPal cranks it up, again.

Thursday Grok: PayPal cranks it up, again.

Are we there yet?

Sometimes massive change arrives by millimetres. All of a sudden everything you understood about the world just flipped on its axis, and you never saw it coming. On that count, it wasn't Apple's iPad that first tipped the joint upside down. Instead it was iTunes: An easy, painless and friction free way to manage micropayments. Consumers just natively got it.

Today, Apple is the biggest company in the world by market cap or close enough. eBay's PayPal (it was acquired in 2002), on the other hand, pioneered micropayments; or at least pioneered them to the extent that other contenders eventually melted away and yeah it's done... okay.

Now you would think establishing yourself as the way money gets moved around the internet would make you happier than a NeXT Computer investor at an Apple AGM, but PayPal never completely nailed it. That's not to disparage a great company or undercook its achievements. After all, it does currently manage over $300 million payments daily.

Rather, deep in your marrow you just know what we're saying is right. And we suspect they know it to.

But, millimetre by millimetre, they just keep chipping away, and today they are going to have another crack. The portents are good.

The company's PayPal Access service, just announced at its developer conference, will let its customers use their accounts on different websites without having to register on each one.

ZDNet goes as far as to suggest, "PayPal Access becomes the Facebook Connect for online payments."

We'll reserve judgment on that for now, but there's no doubt the vibe is solid.

According to ZDNet, Paypal Access "will make online shopping more seamless than anything we’ve ever seen before. To get started, all users need to do is login to participating websites with their existing PayPal accounts. That should automatically bring up preferred shipping and billing addresses and more."

It's frictionless commerce, or at least another step in that direction, so maybe the Facebook comparison is not so unreasonable after all.

The service may prove a tasty hook for developers, merchants and consumers according to Bloomberg, which also provides the obvious cautionary note, "PayPal Access would need cooperation from retail partners, something it doesn’t yet have."

Oh right, maybe somebody should have mentioned that earlier.

What were they thinking?

Prior to his return to the world of billable syllables, Grok managed an IT department for a fairly hefty enterprise. Which is not to say we understand IT, but rather that the clever people who did ended up in his reporting line.

All manner of things caused insomnia in those days. Big, enterprise-wide bet-the-business applications, controlling new software development projects, sourcing staff, and budgets so opaque as to render an understanding of true IT costs meaningless.

One thing that didn't keep us awake at night was the kind of nonsense that routinely passes for news these days on the IT beat. Stories that will prove irresistible to search engine spiders, or which will get a lot of play on high trafficked community sites like Slashdot or Whirlpool.

Yesterday's story about one mobile phone company selling a few $2 handsets in front of a rival's retail outlet excited the kind of coverage that makes you wonder sometimes about the wisdom of journalism. Did Grok just write "wisdom of journalism"? Sorry, what was I thinking?

If a story like this matters to you, go Google it. We refuse to post even one of the 756 of links on Google News this morning.

The story about mobile market that will matter today is this one, and it will elicit the kind of media interest that warrants 756 articles. We'll cover it tomorrow.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. He has been dropping in and out of journalism since 1985. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham

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