The Pony Express marked a new era in postal services in the 1800s, as riders and their steeds galloped miles to create new links between cities in the east and new frontiers in the west.
Now it appears Google is taking a cue from these information pioneers of the past.
Google is developing a new service that would allow users to pay bills through Gmail, instead of through separate companies’ websites or the postal service, according to a report by Re/Code. The project, currently called Pony Express, would allow Google into yet another arena of users’ lives, potentially opening doors to more financial services.
According to documents procured by Re/Code, the service would compile all your monthly bills into one folder on Gmail. At the moment, it appears this would be done by a third-party service – no word on if Google will partner with any telecoms or financial institutions just yet. Then a payment option hooked up to your bank cards would allow you to pay those bills right then and there, or even split a bill with another Gmail user. There are also options to upload a photo of physical mail to be saved for later, as well as an option to contact customer service for a company.
Though paperless billing is nothing new, this is one of the first services that could potentially bring all bills to one place for easy and quick payment. And it comes on the heels of a huge year for mobile payment. Apple equipped all new iPhone 6 models with Apple Pay, Facebook recently introduced a feature where friends can send each other money, and Google Wallet will soon be installed on nearly all Android phones.
The big issue, as with nearly all tech innovations, is privacy and security, which is still a major concern for consumers. Google seems to be already thoughtful of that: in the current stage of Pony Express, a third party will authenticate users to safeguard personal information. Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff points out it is in Google’s interest to be extremely cautious when dipping into finance.
“Many people still put checks in the mail or visit the bank directly to enact payments. They already distrust systems reading their mail. Would they actually trust Google to take that a step further and make payments on their behalf?” he writes. “For companies like Google, though, the even bigger and even more universal market of bill payments is too big too ignore. Google will do everything it can to make Pony Express attractive to everyone and will work overtime to gain trust so they can access your bank accounts, creditors and the companies providing you with goods and services — even if only as a middle man.”