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Mister Rogers’ Payments Neighborhood

Forty-nine years ago this month, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” debuted. Now, we admit, that when most people think of Fred Rogers, they probably don’t think “payments.” But we couldn’t help but draw some comparisons. Won’t you come take a tour of the neighborhood?

Forty-nine years ago this month, at a small public television station in Pittsburgh, a minister and puppeteer began recording what television executives (possibly apocryphally) at the time reportedly said was “the worst idea for a children’s television show ever.”

Kids’ TV in 1967 was far less frenetic that it is today, but bright colors, loud noises and general silliness were still, more or less, the order of the day.

Fred McFeely Rogers’ show featured exactly none of those things — just a soft-spoken man in a cardigan and sneakers talking directly to the camera with some light — and not terribly well-voiced — puppet theater dispersed throughout. Almost no one thought it would be successful. When “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was formally removed from the air in 2007, three years after Rogers died, it had run continuously for almost four decades.

[Important insight: Not all good ideas are obvious at first.]

And while “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was literally brimming with good ideas, there are almost no other sources where one can learn both how to deal with anger and also how to breakdance. But the main and most important lessons from Rogers were about being a good neighbor.

Which got us thinking about our payments and commerce neighborhood and all of its inhabitants old and new. Some are good neighbors who would doubtlessly make Fred Rogers proud.

Others … could maybe work on the neighboring skills.

But everyone has a little lesson to teach. So, in honor of Mister Rogers, we pose the proverbial question on behalf of everyone in payments: Please, won’t you be our neighbor?

 

The Apple House

How You’ll Know It

Apple is the richest “family” in the neighborhood, and its taste is so legendarily good that it’s literally sued its neighbors over in the (recently on fire) Samsung House to prevent it from copying the design.

Not that the lawsuits much matter. A quick visual survey of both tech hardware and tech retail locations indicate that what Apple designs, others will imitate. Google really wanted the Pixel phone to stand out — the first paragraph of every story written about it contained the phrase “looks just like an iPhone” in it somewhere.

How To Be A Good Neighbor

It’s not as much fun being president of the HOA if your house is not the envy of the ‘hood.

Analysts say that the iPhone 7 was more an evolutionary than revolutionary product. There were a few upgrades but no big wow factors.

With one exception: The headphone jack was voted off the island and replaced with either a dongle for the Lightning port or what Apple called the future of listening to music by yourself, the AirPod wireless headphones. And not just wireless, Siri-enabled and smart.

One small problem, though: They don’t work. Or, at least, they don’t work well enough for Apple to release them to the general public just yet — nor is Apple quite sure when they are getting there.

Apple has a long history of being the tech space’s HOA president. Every so often, it makes a change to its operating system or software that requires everyone who wants to use its products tow the line. Which everyone tends to be fine with — after some initial grumbling — as long as it seems to actually be an improvement.

But this week, Apple was like the HOA president that insisted that everyone had to remove the front door to their house and replace it with a superior hardwood — only to find out that there are no doors made of said hardwood after everyone has removed the door and is now living with a hole (or, in the case of the iPhone 7, lack of a hole) as the entrance to their house.

 

The IoT House

How You’ll Know It

It looks like the Jetsons’ house, and everything is fully automated. All the appliances order their own stuff, and there are 600 or so Amazon Dash Buttons all over the house. The garage is voice-activated, the car in it drives itself and the house’s operating system is always learning about the residents’ preferences so it can better order their goods and tell them jokes.

This house is so automated and high-tech that the owners don’t even think about locking their door.

How To Be A Good Neighbor

Lock the door.

A week ago, some of the more popular parts of the web went down in flames after those millions of internet-connected machines, including webcams and other household devices, such as thermostats, were turned into botnets — the attack-oriented kind — because someone forgot to lock the door.

Or, the homeowner didn’t even so much as install a lock in the door, since no one thought they needed to.

The HOA is insisting on an upgrade, though: locks with device security baked in at the silicon level of the chip itself.

 

The Hacker House

How You’ll Know It

That’s the problem with the hackers in this payments neighborhood: They don’t own a house so much as a fleet of vans filled with cybercriminals constantly trying to find the weakest point of entry in the houses in the payments ‘hood.

Or they’ll knock on the front door but pretend to be someone they are not, having stolen all of a different neighbor’s identifying information.

How To Be A Good Neighbor

Out of sight can’t mean out of mind in dealing with the cybercriminals.

Hackers strongly prefer the dark, like a lot of other household pests. If you shine a direct light on where they are working, they scatter and disappear, but the second the light goes off, they reappear to try to get in again.

There is also an uncountably large number of them — no matter how many ways a homeowner tries to get rid of them, there are always more somewhere. There is also, unfortunately, no silver bullet cure for them because they are among the most resilient bottom feeders on Earth.

But they aren’t invincible.

Tokenization, encryption and new techniques in consumer authentication are all akin to poison — making it harder for them to use the data if they are able to get it or even harder to get past any opening they find.

Which is not to say the hackers will stop trying. They’ll continue to cruise the neighborhood waiting for an open door, but smarter neighbors are making it increasingly hard to find them.

Which leads us to the last neighbor we’ll be visiting this morning.

 

The PayPal House

How You’ll Know It

PayPal’s house is the fakeout house on the street that looks like it is modestly sized when viewed from the road, but when you get inside, you realize it’s a mansion — just one built by people who didn’t want to be called ostentatious. The PayPal house is also notable for how friendly it wants to be with its neighbors, and its Venmo brand is a house of the people to the people.

Scion of House of Apple or Facebook or Messenger? No problem, neighbor! PayPal via Braintree will payment-enable your apps and/or enable them to work on lots of other apps.

The House of Visa or Mastercard? PayPal is happy to invite its issuer-branded cards in the house to have a seat at the head of the dining room table.

 

The Lesson of the Week

It pays to be a good neighbor.

PayPal passed the HOA inspection the last time it had one (Q3 earnings). Lots of people were visiting the PayPal house (192 million), and people were meeting with other people at that house over billions of dollars in transactions.

So, the big takeaway?

The payments neighborhood is a big — and, at times, confusing — place. The biggest houses aren’t necessarily the flashiest ones, and the busiest players aren’t necessarily the ones with the best of intentions.

But luckily, we’ve gotten pretty good at looking over the fence and beyond the facades, which means we’re always ready to keep you posted about what those neighbors are really building in there.

Oh, and we’re so glad that you’re our neighbor, too!

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