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Paypal allows you to send money to someone by entering their e-mail address. Is this the best practice for money transfer services? Would it be more user friendly to use user-picked usernames instead, and allow spaces so that businesses can have their business name, and people can have their real name?

What are the best practices for this?

Kind of similar to my last question on requiring e-mails, but a slightly different thing.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

E-mail address (or phone number) is much better than arbitrary text (aka, username). From a security perspective, you can verify that the account holder for sales@bobsappliances.com or 800-555-5555 has access to the given e-mail/phone. You can't very well verify that the account named "Bob's Appliances" belongs to the legitimate business vs. a scammer.

Like PayPal, you can still show more information (e.g., friendly name, street address, etc.) based on the user-provided e-mail/phone prior to confirming the transaction.

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E-mail address is more strong identifier compared to username, as it is something that is closely connected to a user in the real world. Besides feeling of a real person behind email, it gives communication ability. This is important for money matters.
So, email gives: a) trust, b) communication. Username doesn't provide any of it.

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Email addresses are also a unique identifier. Only one bob.smith@email.com can exist.

There are cases (as rare as it may be) that there will be two Bob Smith's living in the same block of apartments, in the same city.

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