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PayPal CTO Resigns (sec.gov)
504 points by coloneltcb on Feb 8, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 119 comments

PayPal's redesigned their UI two or three times in the past decade or so. None of those redesigns have made it to business accounts yet. I still log in and see the same site I did in the early 2000s. I really, really understand that their business is enormously complex, operating in hundreds of different markets, but... you'd think some of the improvements would trickle down eventually. It's a real challenge for their support staff that has to figure out which of several completely different interfaces a customer is seeing before they can provide any help with it.


They do a lot of things with business accounts that is irritating. For example:

- they should be able to remove the annoying "USE PAYPAL CREDIT FOR THIS??!?!?!?!?!" overlay.

- show transaction ids on the payment confirmation page, rather than making us navigate to a 2 more pages after paying

Oh, and not sure if this is related to just business accounts, but I have to log in twice to get logged in. Some kind of cookie bug that's fixed exactly once if I clear cookies, then starts happening again.

And, lastly, since I see you have a few disputes/chargebacks...their chargeback handling process is horrid.

> I have to log in twice to get logged in.

I've had to log in twice for months as well. I can't comprehend their leaving something so basic broken this long.

> And, lastly, since I see you have a few disputes/chargebacks...their chargeback handling process is horrid.

I have no beef with their chargeback handling myself. It's something more ridiculous actually. Those 5 "open cases" are cases I opened against a hosting company 12 years ago, in 2004. They stopped paying their colo bills and the DC cut power to their racks, including all the servers they rented to customers. PayPal decided the best course of action, given no money in their account or linked bank accounts to pay any refunds, was to leave the disputes open forever.

I can't even view the cases any more. If I try to search that far back in time, the dispute search times out and the site dies with no response (white screen), like some overloaded WordPress blog on shared hosting.

Have you ever worked that has technology lasting more than ten years?

There is probably a backlog of 1,000 bugs that all of the developers would love to fix, but they're nasty edge cases in legacy code and would require a major refactor and we have plans on building a full replacement, but product has this new initiative first and...

The "you have to log in twice" thing though?


It's not an edge case.

What helps is to bookmark a page that's not the slow loading "Overview" page that is the top of their navigation hierarchy, and jump there directly. You still need to log in twice sometimes, but at least it loads much faster. But it's pretty outrageous that such hacks are even necessary.

(this one loads quickest, in my experience: https://history.paypal.com/?cmd=_history-search)

PayPal won a lot of praise a couple of years ago for rewriting their code in Node.js and the phenomenal productivity improvements that supposedly brought.

I wonder if the complaints we see on this thread mean the honeymoon between PayPal and node.js is over.

If I remember the discussion correctly, it seemed to center on the node code still being very slow despite being faster than the java system it replaced. People commented that the increase in speed may of simply been due to the act of rewriting the system and not being tied down by in house framework rather than any favorable property of node.js

I don't see why you would expect node.js to be faster than anything else; despite all the time that's been poured into it I'd think JavaScript is still inherently difficult to optimize (and I'd guess they also need to do a lot of extra work to deal with numbers in the proper precision since they are handling money).

The thing that worries me is the scale of their attack surface, they have so many different systems inter operating there re bound to be some serious security bugs in there too.

    > I can't comprehend their
    > leaving something so basic
    > broken this long.
Hipmunk have been showing economy fares for business searches for weeks, and fixing it is apparently on their backlog, but not very high up. It's made their site completely useless, and their fare alerts pointless.

Do companies just get complacent, or fire off everything but a skeleton staff to keep servers running after they've got an MVP?

The thing is, PayPal code is a mess. And it is a mess that responds well to resources being thrown at it. For as long as PayPal keeps seeing growth, nobody wants to fix that mess.

Internally it really works like a bank - there are a couple of dev teams that are always under time crunch and rest of the company is basically busy politicking over the pie.

And when that growth stops, it's too late to fix the problems. If you can keep things teetering along for a couple more years you can get a few bonuses cash out and leave before it all falls over.

It's the same story everywhere. I wish that it weren't.

Yes but when would _that_ happen? Growth will slow down when: 1) Either they have captured almost all of the market 2) Or they have a better competitor which washes them away

Iff (1) happens, they will not go under as they will a 'large' bank and will most likely be 'too big to fail'.

And I don't think (2) is happening fast enough.

When your code is so brittle that you can't widen your target audience, you can't keep growing.

And it's not like there aren't plenty of examples of products that have enough competition that they grow the market but never saturate it.

2) I imagine this is what the politicking people are supposed to work on to gain an interest in the competition.

Like a bank :)

Hm, that's odd. I have a Paypal business account and I've been seeing the new layout for at least a year now.

Are you using PayPal pro? I'm not, since AFAIK the only difference is the website redirect + accepting the full credit card information.

You can take payments in person without having a Paypal Pro account, just their swiper reader.

There is definitely a split, one of our newer accounts has a new interface but the older ones don't. Not sure if it is age or location causing it.

World's slowest staged rollout, perhaps?

None of those redesigns have made it to business accounts yet.

Tarsnap got the latest updated interface a few months ago. Maybe they're rolling it out to non-US businesses first?

>None of those redesigns have made it to business accounts yet.

We get sort of half old, half new, depending on where you click. Neither interfaces are any good though.

It depends on where you are, and for some countries only certain % of the population will get it as it ramps up slowly. For some products, the new isn't ready so it falls back to the old stack. It could be due to the ramp, WIP, or just that the old code is too old to the extent no one wants/dares to modify it.

They keep upgrading my business account to use the new version and I invariably have to switch it back after a couple of days because it's missing (or I can't easily find) various features that I rely upon.

I'm very grateful that unlike some other services they at least give me the option to keep switching back to the 'classic' view.

This reminds me of a React/Flux talk by Facebook's Jing Chen about how there were pieces of code within the product that literally nobody wanted to touch because they were so fragile and complex. I suspect there is something similarly messy in the PayPal business accounts, and for whatever reason a ground-up rewrite was also a challenge.

My biggest pain: It is 2016 but we still have to log into PayPal to cancel subscriptions manually when someone requests to downgrade their account. API does not support it because our subscription numbers start with "S-" which seems to happen with old PayPal accounts.

Couldn't you automate it anyway?

Mechanize and PhantomJS can be really helpful to script things that aren't covered by a public API.

The staged rollout has been ridiculously slow. I had it on my business account before my personal one, well over a year ago I think. The biggest problem was that it was activated before all of the features were available, so either it would throw you back into an old-site page when you clicked on something, or you'd need to manually switch to the old design to find a certain tool or setting that wasn't yet exposed in the new site. As of the last month or so it looks finally like they've gotten all of the features I use onto the new site, and it definitely better than the early-noughties design of the old site.

I see that same UI on a normal user account.

Maybe the fact that I'm in Argentina is somehow related? (we have some additional restrictions due to government restrictions, so the functionality is different too).

You can call them and ask them to upgrade your profile. I was seeing this UI until I requested they upgrade me a few months ago.

Tangentally, does anyone know how to show a running balance in PayPal, similar to a bank statement. I can get a list of transactions, but there doesn't seem to be a 'Balance' column, and it's not obvious which transactions affect the balance.

No. You'd have to roll your own using nvp TransactionSearch api with BalanceAffecting transaction. Also you'd have to do currency conversions on your own

Switch back to the 'classic' view. That's the only way I could find to do it.

I thought there was a balance option on that same table.

Edit: Link on mine is: All Activity (with balance)

Continues to use the VeriSign logo (discontinued 2 years ago)

Not to mention that all FAQs have been updated to NEW UIs.

Adopters of the 'new' PayPal interface can probably attest to the poor quality, redirects and unexplained errors that have been popping up. After talking on the phone with two service reps, one of whom refused to let me talk to a technical expert as to why my email confirmation token wouldn't work and another who had to enable automated billing on my account manually (because it's totally broken in the client interface) I can only conclude the problems are widespread and currently still at large. I'm not surprised they have made a high-profile canning.

I transitioned back to the old interface almost immediately. The search interface for past orders is less powerful because you now need to know when an order was placed in addition to having the transaction ID. The old interface can pull up an order without having the approximate order date as long as you can provide either your own txnid or the customer's txnid. Additionally, I was no longer able to pull up orders using the customer's txnid. So, that was a bummer.

Same here. They probably have an index on the txn ID, search is pretty quick that way, but on the new interface where they force you to search within a time span, it takes forever when its more than a few days. So the decision to force people to pick a time span is probably hurting their DB select as much as it is hurting the user experience.

Yeah, PayPal works nice for the simple case, but it seems like any minimally complex payment structure, even simple recurrences, are a complete train wreck.

The role of CTO varies so greatly from company to compan . Some are hands on making major decisions. Others are almost academic; looking 18+ months out and responsible for understanding big trends et . Not sure which is the case here. Does anyone know?

I can at least agree that it varies greatly company to company. I've got some blog posts lined up relating to being a CTO, but it really is a varied position, and interchangeable with being a VP of Engineering.

Zenefits just canned their CEO (ironically, over a benefits dispute), while their COO steps up to take over that role. Maybe James is leaving Paypal to become COO of Zenefits?

Definitely related, from http://venturebeat.com/2016/02/08/zenefits-ceo-parker-conrad... / https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11061992

>Also today, Zenefits announced that venture capitalist and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel has joined the startup’s board of directors. In addition to relinquishing his role as chief executive, Conrad has also given up his board seat.

Definitely not related. David Sacks and Peter Thiel are best friends from college.

PayPal had good earnings last quarter (http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/27/paypal-shares-up-on-earning...), so bad performance may not be the reason.

He was CTO, why would infrastructure guy ever be held responsible for poor overall performance? It's not rocket science, nor F1 team

> He was CTO

...and Senior VP Payment Services.

> why would infrastructure guy ever be held responsible for poor overall performance?

Payment Services is a pretty central business function for PayPal.

From his bio page:

"In 2011, James moved over to PayPal, first as vice president of global product development and, beginning in 2012, as chief technology officer. In 2015, he expanded his role to also lead the Payment Services business in PayPal, a global team that powers the efficient movement of money and rewards into, out of, and within the PayPal network."

So, he was CTO/Infrastructure Guy, then they added on SVP Payment Services some time last year, which sounds like it has a lot to do with overall performance.

CTO can also be a product person, or at the very least they should be tightly integrated into the product development lifecycle.

A CTO that is just an "infrastructure guy" is not a CTO by any measure I've seen.

ALL C-level's are responsible for company results.

Shit flows downhill and they needed a scapegoat to make the board happy. The general public doesn't know what a CTO does so problem solved nice and neat.

I would disagree along the lines that the general public didn't even know there was a problem. I'm still not even sure what the issue was, myself(besides the usual complaints about paypal).

Worst ever support i have experienced. I do not contact support unless there is something i can't operate myself. They just copy paste things from their support FAQ... didn't receive answer to my question ever... Such incompetence.

New Money needs a New CTO

Makes sense. I recently tried to send someone money on PayPal. They froze my account, and then CS suggested I wait 2 to 3 weeks for the account to unfreeze itself.

Welcome to new money.

When you call their tech support and their own tech support gives up on their products and just recommends the now PayPal owned Braintree...well that wasn't the only bad sign I guess.

BT has much less technical debt and thus more modern design. Most new merchants are encouraged to use v.zero (BT's xo product)

I wonder what the downvote rationale is here?

Ah you beat me to it. I was going to say he must have watched their Super Bowl commercial and figured it was all downhill from there.

Couldn't happen to a nicer sleazeball. I have nothing but disdain for Paypal (and Square, at this point), their customer service is terrible, their limits (even for businesses) are laughably low, and their processes for increasing the limits are slow, opaque, and unable to be appealed. Nothing but the back of my hand for these chuckleheads, I hope they trip and fall on their megayachts.

I know of a lot of valid complaints against PayPal (bad support, poor policies, many unjust closures) but I haven't heard a whole ton about Square—certainly nothing to drop them into the same bucket as PayPal. Mind expanding on that a little?

It's hard to read between the lines here.

- 2 months is a odd notice period (one would expect three). So was he pushed?

- the role is being split in two from his departure. This usually means the role had more power than was comfortable.

- but it's still two Months. Any signs of gardening leave?

Senior VP Payment Services and CTO seem to be two roles that one person may have been right to fill in a special case (with a very special person), but where usually the best person to fill one wouldn't be the best person to fill the other.

It's likely that it's been planned for much longer than 2 months, and is only being publicized now, after everyone has prepared for the transition.

I switched to Google Wallet. PayPal would take forever to send money and has done nothing for years to innovate. All they do is buy startups (Braintree). I think this is entirely true - when the founders leave, companies stop innovating.


> Hill Ferguson, a top executive and officer who was SVP of PayPal’s consumer business, has stepped down, he announced in a post on Facebook earlier today. Bill Ready, who was Ferguson’s counterpart for the merchant side of PayPal’s ecosystem, is gaining more control and will now run product and engineering for the entire company, a spokesman said in a statement.


> William Ready, the company's Global Head of Product & Engineering, will take over the "payment services functions" currently handled by Barrese,

Is it really that big a mystery what is happening?

Well, it's a mystery to me. What do you see?

politics? power grab? the new guys coming in and pushing out the old?

even battlehack, which started in 2013, which is probably one of the best things PP did for developers in recent years is awfully quiet now

Oh, finally. For a couple years, I can't pass authentication of PayPal on my iPhone no matter how I tried. While almost all the credit card and banks are now using fingerprint on iPhone, I need a hardware token device to really get in PayPal on iPhone. According to the rep the logic is I can use my phone number to receive 2 factor text code, then why advertised it.

The new web has been continued puzzled me often prompt to go back to old UI for more details. This is in 2015, decades after online banking started and PayPal is not a government agency. However you put it, it doesn't add up.

In my case using SMS for 2FA only works within their new interface. Whenever an online shop is redirecting to PayPal, it's the old login page (and doesn't notice when already logged in on PayPal), so I basically never receive 2FA codes in that step.

Not sure if just broken or they are using a different SMS gateway that has a problem with my country. It also doesn't really help that 2FA is still only known as hardware tokens within their documentation. It doesn't raise any trust for the PayPal website either.

PayPal is being really obnoxious lately (like banning payments to VPN services and such). Or were they always that way?

They have been like that from the start. I don't blame them, there was a lot of fraud going on and it meant they had to develop a very defensive attitude to things just to stay in business. It's hard to shake those things off once they are established.

About that Paypal stability... https://i.imgur.com/PCkXnQu.png

So who's more senior after this? The new CTO or Bill Ready?

Tomorrow's top post: Zenefits CEO, Yelp CFO, PayPal CTO team up to Big Data the Internet of Things

It'll be an insurance company that holds hostage provider payments until you delete your negative review.

You win!

I literally laughed out loud for what seems like a while.

You could probably raise 10$M on that idea a few months back.

Oh bravo!

That was very funny :)

"It's like Uber for AI," said Apple's former Self-Driving Car guy who also joined the team.

Yelp CFO just resigned. What's going on?

A lot of companies need scapegoats this quarter. I would imagine a lot of envelopes are being stuffed today - http://www.design.caltech.edu/erik/Misc/Prepare_3_Envelopes....


Except that PayPal posted a strong earnings report in Q4 2015 (http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/27/paypal-shares-up-on-earning...). So this is just a coincidence of timing (new year, etc.).

My point is, I seriously doubt the CTO was forced out or left because he thought his stock was worthless. He is most likely leaving for any of the million other reasons people leave companies every day.

Earnings is a lagging indicator

Reality is a lagging indicator. All this schadenfreude on HN, so much eager anticipation for bad things, why do you people read this site? There is real malicious intent among a lot of commentators. A lot of posts recently have been FUD and cheap and low quality posts to business insider and other vapid blogs.

It all seriousness - allowing another mega-bubble to get created just to burst again should be prevented. This is what regulatory safeguards are supposed to prevent but like the housing bubble and financial bubble, the nefarious types always find a way to game the system.

When this happens it so harmful to the little guy and all of the employees stuck in the middle.

You can't boil water without bubbles.

Am I very dense or is this a reference to the tech bubble?

The bubble is obv there, but that doesn't mean it has to go bust. We still have time

I feel like I've missed some vital perspective... why is there obviously a bubble? (I'm assuming "obv" means "obviously" in your comment)

I guess that's the reference but it doesn't make any sense.

You might argue that it's wrong but I think the sense of it is obvious.

Congratulations you got the reference. Gold stars for everyone!

I assumed people would be drawing this conclusion when I saw the top 3 threads right now. How do we know that is the case and not just statistical anomaly, though?

That was just a joke, for now.

The idea that we're in a bubble on the cusp of collapse has been building over the past year, spiking when the feds raised interest rates, but there's no concrete evidence of a bubble popping. Yet.

Get worried when we see (multiple) high-level execs also resigning from Facebook/Twitter/etc. Especially if it's of their own accord...

Multiple high-level execs left Twitter about two weeks ago - four at once.


HN bubble bubble?


Have you figured out why some people gloat over it?


Correction: people haven't been calling a bubble for the last year, it's been for the last 5 years:


So the majority of people called a tech bubble, unlike your claim that most people are "permabulls", and then there was a period of great growth and prosperity. There have been plenty of people predicting gloom and doom to happen before now and none of them are admitting they were wrong. So basically it's gone down exactly the opposite as you've described.

Eventually, the naysayers will, to an extent, be right. But it's ridiculous to act like financial market movements are obvious and we should all predict it perfectly. It's even ridiculous to act like a few resignations is indicative of a bubble popping. The strongest evidence that a bubble does not exist is all these weaker companies struggling, because in an actual bubble they would be propped up by the relentless speculation. Yet people point to failed companies as proof there's a bubble, even while many tech companies are doing great.

Either way, financial markets are very difficult to predict, unless you count predicting the same direction for years and waiting for it to be right. So stop acting like it's easy and obvious. If you really feel so strongly, put your net worth into shorting tech stocks and make a ton of money.

As you see it, if (hypothetically) an industry lasts for five years, and then collapses due to none of its promises coming to fruition, was it in fact a bubble the whole time? Would people have been wrong for calling it out the whole time, even if it took five years to happen?

Whether or not this describes Silicon Valley is a further question, but it sounds like based on your standard, you wouldn't give credit to a naysayer even if it did.

If hypothetically, the entire industry collapsed, sure, the people who called it a bubble were right. But an "industry collapse" means something like Google or Facebook shutting down with no competitor to replace it, almost every unicorn going broke, and most importantly the market cap of the entire sector hitting pre-2011 levels proving the growth was fake all along. That would be a really big collapse - to the extent that pointing to a bad Yelp earnings as evidence is a joke. In real bubbles, big, established players like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers disappear and thousands of smaller shops get crushed. A collapse is not a few unicorns losing some value. Even if Uber got wiped out I wouldn't call it an industry collapse, and that scenario is already hard to imagine.

More likely, at some point we'll see a bad year or two, some hiring freezes and layoffs here and there, and people point to that as a bubble collapse that they "knew all along", even though they "knew" it during times when the sector grew more than it eventually receded.

In real bubbles, you see a insane amount of growth based on pure speculation, followed by a massive collapse. The justification for a "bubble" so far has been based on incredibly silly things like the engineers making 80% of what lawyers make or private valuations being high (which only affects a small number of people and is often inflated by things like liquidation preference incentivizing it to sound artificially high despite a significantly lower risk).

Companies like Zynga, Groupon, Living Social, Homejoy, Twitter and Yahoo struggling during a so-called "bubble" is not insane growth, it's proof the market has maintained skepticism over the years. And a few more unicorns falling over won't be a massive collapse either.

Every market has downturns. Not every downturn is a bubble. And an actual "bubble" existence hasn't been proven true despite repeated insistences for 5 years, and I highly doubt it will start now, unless we uncover massive, massive fraud.

Reply threshold. Saying a bubble bursting always involves a Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns collapse (brother post) is pushing it. That was a leveraged bubble and it burst harder than most. In the dot com bubble most of the big names rode it out from AOL to Yahoo and Amazon. A bubble can pop without a Facebook or Google type company going down.

Yes its wrong.

Shorting too early is an insane money losing proposition.

Is this supposed to be a clever comment? Paypal doesn't belong to that group of companies.

He was pro "Old Money"

Is this coincidence or what? Yelp CFO also resigned. Two executives from two different sinking ships.

Paypal is getting murdered by Stripe. Yelp thought it could raise stock prices by buying traffic. Something had to give, someone has to take the blame.

Looking at Paypal's Q4 2015 statement, they made $500 million in profit on $2.5 billion in revenue, up from $400 million in profit on $2.1 billion in revenue from Q4 2014. If that's what a sinking ship looks like, I'd love to be on board!


PayPal a sinking ship? Getting murdered by stripe? I call bullshit - do you have numbers to back you up?

Here's a documentary about that:


In the first down market Stripe will no longer exist. They are losing money at an incredible rate and no where near profitable. They are losing money at a rate of about $100MM per year, and having to raise the same.

Perhaps they can make it to IPO, but even at a 3.5B valuation, they have to find profitability very quickly, a 3.5B market cap can turn into a $250M market cap very quickly, just ask GroupOn.

When you are losing more per year than you can book in revenue, this is not a good business, and certainly isn't going to take over the market.

This is doubly true if Paypal is firing their CTO, who is in the end responsible for their situation, poor usability, and very poor APIs. If Paypal wakes up and starts fixing their issues, they are closing the one and only thing that is giving companies like Stripe an opening.

> They are losing money at an incredible rate and no where near profitable. They are losing money at a rate of about $100MM per year, and having to raise the same.

Do you have a citation for that? I couldn't find anything when I tried searching.

Indeed. A lot of people reading HN surely have some sort of business interest that uses Stripe, so if they are really in such a fragile position then that would be a significant risk for many here. And yet this is the first suggestion I've seen of it at all, never mind the huge burn rate claimed.

Groupon ($GRPN) is valued at 1.3 Billion, roughly its all time low. So I'm not sure that's the metaphor you wanted?

Right, and at its high it was hyped up to more than $15B.

So if Stripe is worth 5B, and has a similar % drop, it will be worth about 300M, or about half as much money as it has raised.

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