PayPal IPN - Take control over your incoming payments!

I'm sure you've heard all about the simplicity of using a payment processor service to sell your items online, but don't miss out on the ones who prefer using Paypal.

You're probably selling something online if you're readíng this. And quite probably this thing that you sell is software or some other digital goods. And with quite a big probability you're using a third party payment processor to provide you with all funcitonality, such as shopping carts, payments, receipts and all that stuff.

Hopefully your payment processor, be it 2checkout or any other one supports PayPal, because if you're not providing the option to pay by PayPal you're probably missing out on a number of potential buyers. 

PayPal IPN Basics

If your payment processor does not support PayPal, you can still create your own PayPal payment handler quite easily using something called IPN or Instant Payment Notification. I won't go into the details here, but instead point you to the right direction where you can get more information. Basically what you do is that you generaate a paypal button and provide a url that will handle all notifications. This is typically a php, aspx or any other server side language. 

What happens is that when your buyer clicks the button and proceeds with the payment, PayPal will send continous notifications regarding this payment as the payment is being processed. All the data you need will be included in the request sent to the notification url you have provided.

The beauty of it all, that you can also pass your own custom pass-through value to match a purchase to a certain customer or order. You can actually use this field to post complex data aswell, I'll let you know how in a Quick Tip.

The only drawback I can see using PayPal IPN is that it's a pain to debug, and setting up the PayPal sandbox environment is also quite time consuming. In fact I prefer to run all tests on a "live" environment which is, of course, not reccomended. 

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