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Apple Pay is coming to websites and it's a really big deal

It has been pitched to retailers as a way to convert more shoppers browsing for stuff on their computers and phones into actual buyers.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Apple announced on Monday that it is expanding its Apple Pay payment system from apps to websites. Recode first reported in March that Apple would bring the system to mobile websites by the winter holidays and that it was considering making it work for desktop websites, too. Looks like both are happening.

Up to now, Apple Pay has worked in two ways. iPhone users could load their credit card or debit card information into the system and then tap and pay with their phone in participating stores. People could also use Apple Pay to buy stuff in iPhone apps without having to type in all of their payment card and shipping info.

Today's expansion of Apple Pay to websites could have a much bigger impact than either of the previous use cases. Retailers had 20 percent more visits to their mobile websites than their mobile apps during last year’s holiday shopping season, according to comScore. And the majority of retail traffic still happens on desktop websites.

In the previous Apple Pay use cases, the phone’s fingerprint sensor is used to make the transaction more secure. With the new Apple Pay expansion, the fingerprint sensor will be integrated, too, but in a different way. People shopping on a website on a Mac computer who want to use Apple Pay will get a notification on their iPhone to confirm the transaction. Pressing their finger to the phone’s fingerprint sensor will authenticate the transaction on the computer.

Like Apple Pay for apps, Apple Pay for the mobile web has been pitched to retailers as a way to convert more shoppers browsing for stuff on their phones into actual buyers. Many people abandon a purchase on their phone when they have to type in all their payment and shipping details on a small screen — a roadblock for online retailers that Apple Pay can eliminate.

The expansion should eventually have some impact on PayPal, the most popular alternative online payment method today in the U.S. The question is how big. It's important to note that Apple Pay users have to own a Mac computer and an iPhone if they want to use the payment service on desktop websites. They also have to be using Apple's Safari web browser.

Google announced at its developer conference in May that it was working to bring its payment system, Android Pay, to websites as well.

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