At the beginning of September 2013, we had the pleasure of hearing Bill Scott from PayPal talk about the revolution that is happening there through the use of Node.js and Lean-UX practices.
Bill arrived at PayPal in 2011 to a risk-averse, “not invented here” culture where long shelf life was the norm.
Things were so slow, in fact, that in 2011 even a simple content copy change could take as much as 6 weeks to change on the PayPal site.
Due to the slow release cycle times, the door had been left open for new entrants like Stripe and Square to enter the payments market.
One of the root problems was that all the technology in PayPal was tangled up and not suited for rapid experimentation and build/measure/learn.
Later the stack was changed to be more reasonable (JSP for templating). But even in that state the stack was not conducive to prototyping, and most of the UI bits lived on the server.
Under Bill Scott, some sharp folks joined from Netflix and Yahoo, and in early 2012 they began to flesh out a UI layer that could support rapid experimentation.
In April 2012, David Marcus became president of PayPal and Bill was given a small team and a project to re-invent checkout.
David is a startup person and gave them 6 weeks to launch a new checkout system (bear in mind that checkout is a system that generates $3.5 Billion revenue for PayPal).
It wasn’t possible to get Node.js production ready within 6 weeks as a large number of PayPal’s subsystems needed to be integrated into the Node.js system so Node.js was initially used as a rapid prototyping framework.