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3DS Explained

Of course the world is not ideal, and not everyone wants to subscribe to 3DS. In my opinion, for 3DS to be completely effective, there needs to be a straight changeover from one system to the other. In the Euro zone, countries switching from their native currencies to the Euro currency did so overnight. The same occurred when Euro countries changed from imperial to decimal currency formats. However, you have to feel a little sorry for Visa and Master Card, because they are not governments, and there are limits to what they can force through banking and purchasing systems.

Is it the consumers that are holding up the transition to 3DS? Not likely, as they will be instructed to comply with whatever policy is adopted by their card issuing banks, and won't have much of a say in the matter. Nope, the problem is more in the merchant, banking and payments gateway world.

To help you understand the problem a little better, I need to explain at a high level how both the current system and 3DS work. Let's start with a highly summarized description of the current process.

Right now, when you purchase an item online, you are routed to the checkout page where you enter your details. The payment is then routed to a payments gateway that runs a slide rule over risk and verification. On a successful outcome, the payment is sanctioned, and recorded with the merchants own bank. During an overnight process, the merchant bank forwards the payment request to the card holder's issuing bank, and the transaction is satisfied. You in turn get the transaction on your next monthly bill.

For 3DS to work, it is necessary to carve up that process into logical domains that intercommunicate in a manner laid down by the 3DS Protocol. There are three 3DS domains:

  • The Issuing Domain, consisting of the Issuing Bank and Credit Card Holder;
  • The Acquiring Domain, containing the Merchant, Payments Gateway and Merchant Bank; and
  • The Interoperability Domain, which consists of routing servers, software and other interconnecting devices that allow all the elements to communicate in real time.

The following diagram is available on Visa's information site:

3DS Explained

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