Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery? As we reported this morning, PayPal just launched a number of new APIs and a brand new developer portal today. This also included the release of new REST APIs. One thing that many noticed—competitor Stripe’s REST API documentation looks remarkably similar.
You can see from the screenshots that PayPal structured their documentation with the API documents on the left hand side of the page and the sample code on the right side of the page. This layout is identical to the way Stripe lays out its REST API. PayPal also has a blueprint of its logo on its developer home page, which is similar to Stripe’s blueprint on the startup’s homepage.
You can see the chatter about the similarities on Twitter here. Even Stripe’s founder Patrick Collison weighed in on Twitter, Tweeting, “16 months after Stripe launches, PayPal’s response is… a clone of Stripe’s API docs.”
It doesn’t appear that PayPal has copied any actual language but many seem to think that the payments giant copied Stripe’s design for their documentation. There’s no illegality in this, but it is something that is called out by the developer community when it does happen.
A spokesperson for PayPal issues this statement: “Under David [Marcus’] leadership we have a renewed focus on creating simple beautiful products for all our customers – consumers, merchants and developers. The design of the developer pages matches that philosophy in making it as easy as possible for developers to get to what they need quickly. It matches what we have already done on paypal.com for consumers and our PayPal page for merchants http://www.paypal.com/merchants.”
Stripe launched its developer-friendly online payments system that allows developers to avoid setting up merchant accounts and dealings with banks, while still ensuring transaction safety. The service has bit a hit with developers because of its simplicity. The company not only competes with PayPal, but also Braintree; and is backed by General Catalyst, Sequoia, Peter Thiel, Max Levchin and Elon Musk.
Curebits was called out for taking design elements and code from 37Signals last year. Zynga has sued Vostu over game design. These are different cases, of course, but the underlying fact is that design was copied. It’s a surprising move by a company that is actually part of another public company, eBay. And it’s worth noting that the design was copied from a very buzzed about, fast growing competitor.