PayPal IPN Complience: Is Your WordPress Site Ready for the Switch?

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If you use PayPal to process payments with WordPress, sometime int he past few weeks you've probably received a cryptic and somewhat alarming email about updating your IPN settings. The subject line screams: IMMEDIATE ATTENTION REQUIRED: PayPal service upgrades.

While the email does a great job of scaring the crap out of you and making you think your website is going to come crashing down around your ears, it doesn't do such a great job of telling you exactly how to prevent that from happening. If you find yourself staring at the email, scratching your head and feeling completely lost, you're not alone. It's just the latest poorly communicated change coming out of PayPal in recent months. Remember the big change in service message a few months ago that had everyone thinking PayPal was claiming their intellectual content?

While PayPal's communications department might need to polish up their messaging skills, you clearly need to make sure that your website is ready for this change so that it doesn't negatively impact your clients or your bottom line.

Test your PayPal IPN in WordPress

Luckily, Mike Jolley (lead developer on the famous Woo Commerce plugin) has made this incredibly easy for us. He's developed a plugin that will tell you if your IPN is going to work when PayPal makes the switch to SHA-156. In case that last sentence sounded like a foreign language, I'll explain.

Instant Payment Notification (IPN) is a message service that automatically notifies merchants of events related to PayPal transactions. For example, you're using WooCommerce and a customer is taken to the PayPal website to pay for your product. When the payment is complete, PayPal sends a notification to your website telling WooCommerce to mark the order as paid. This isn't just a WooCommerce thing, many plugins that integrate with PayPal use IPN.

To check your WordPress website for compatibility with the new IPN, you can upload Mike's plugin.

  1. Go to https://gist.github.com/mikejolley/0941e0882efcad64ea40 and click Download Zip on the right.
  2. Log into your WordPress website, click Plugins>Add New>Upload Plugin and upload the zip file.
  3. Click the Activate Plugin link.
  4. You should be on the Plugins Page. Find the PayPal Sandbox IPN Tester plugin and click on the link highlighted in yellow below.

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  • If the message you get says Success, you're good to go. If it doesn't contact your hosting company to make sure they are on the job and updating your servers soon.
  • Delete the plugin. You don't need it anymore and it's never good to leave unused plugins in your site.
  • A big thanks to Mike Jolley for developing this plugin and for checking my details.