Patreon is letting users directly link its payment platform to WordPress, MailChimp, and other services. Today, it’s launching an “app directory” of plugins based on its existing API, along with a developer portal that includes documentation for building new tools. It’s part of a major Patreon expansion in the wake of a $60 million funding round last month, and a step toward making the service a full-fledged payment system, not just a crowdfunding site.
Patreon VP of business development Brent Horowitz says that around a dozen plugins will be available at launch, and he hopes to have 100 or more available within a year. Some, like the extension for WordPress-powered sites, will replicate basic Patreon functions outside Patreon.com. Patrons can sign up for memberships directly through a private site, and the creator can offer patron-only posts on that site, rather than posting on their Patreon page.
Other plugins will grant patrons access to members-only message boards or chat channels — something Patreon already does with gaming-focused chat app Discord. Forum platform Discourse is integrating with Patreon, and Slack support is coming later this year. There are also some uses that will be mostly invisible to patrons. That includes a connection with automation service Zapier, which lets creators do things like instantly add new patrons to mailing lists.
Developers could already work with Patreon’s API, but this makes it easier for any creator to automate steps that they might have performed by hand, and to avoid sending potential patrons away from their site to sign up. Developers, meanwhile, should have access to more resources from Patreon, including better overall support. “We have more engineers and product resources dedicated to this initiative then we did when those integrations were first built,” says Horowitz.
There are still a few obvious gaps here, particularly the lack of full integration with YouTube, where many of the most popular Patreon creators operate. Zapier can automate video sharing, but people won’t be able to sign up for membership directly on YouTube. Any plugin might run up against YouTube’s shifting and poorly explained rules for creators, who currently can’t even advertise campaigns directly on videos until they hit 10,000 views. Nonetheless, Patreon is talking with “essentially everybody that matters” about integration, says Horowitz. “We think that this is certainly the beginning of larger platforms — the giant tech companies and those types — [working] with us on unlocking special experiences for patrons.”
Patreon’s latest funding round will let the company — which, despite rapid growth, remains much smaller than similar platforms like Kickstarter — push further into the mainstream. This hasn’t come without controversy. The latest policy update laid out stricter rules around what Patreon deemed “fringe adult content,” to the consternation of its many erotic entertainers and artists. A spokesperson has since told Engadget that Patreon was only clearing up gray areas in its existing terms of service. But the bigger the platform gets — and the more places you can find it — the more it will need to articulate exactly who it’s for.