MasterCard Inc. is planning to open up its software format, enabling third-party programmers to develop payments applications for its network.

The company said Tuesday that it would release open application programming interfaces for developers later this year.

"We feel this will unleash innovation within our industry, especially in the burgeoning areas of e-commerce and mobile payments," Josh Peirez, MasterCard's chief innovation officer, said in a press release.

The Purchase, N.Y., company said it has used the API to develop applications for Apple Inc.'s iPhone. The Open API tools were used to develop Easy Savings, which lets users find merchants that offer rebates through MasterCard's Easy Savings program, and ATM Hunter.

In addition to the software tools, MasterCard plans to provide a developer forum to allow collaboration among coders, as well as reference guides and sample code.

"Our new Open API program and developer portal will strengthen MasterCard's position … and give us an even greater competitive advantage as the payments industry continues to evolve," Garry Lyons, MasterCard's group executive for research and development, said in the press release.

PayPal Inc., the payments unit of eBay Inc. of San Jose, opened its own software platform last year. The PayPal platform allowed online banking vendors to offer PayPal payments within their own systems; Fidelity National Information Services Inc. was able to link PayPal to its bill-pay system, and S1 Corp. incorporated PayPal transfers into its mobile banking software. More recently, PayPal has highlighted how developers have integrated its payment system into an online rental marketplace and to receive investments for iPhone software development.