Unkind--I really can't speak on the 'differences' because that is largely a matter of personal opinion and preference. Suffice to say that basically, each platform represents a different approach to accomplishing the very same thing. How these different platforms came into being is because, over the years, the 'big fish' platforms acquired the 'small fish' platforms. So after buying out the smaller network, they had a fully functioning network with competent technical staff trained how to use it, just different from the 'mother' platform in the same sense taht Peachtree is different from Quickbooks even though it does the same thing. So rather than just trash it, they kept it 'as is' and just gave each platform a slightly different name to distinguish one from the other. Actually, I think that's not such a bad thing--if one program crashes, it's kind of nice to have a totally different program in the same garage to use as back-up. If you are asking why processors use a specific platform instead of another, there are many possible answers that. One is probably as simple as because they negotiated a better deal with one than another. Or, perhaps they wish to use a particular piece of hardware that is certified on one network but not another.
Sorry, but this response was not accurate. The various platforms meet the needs of a particular market segment. The North Platform has it's own set of standards and usages relating most specifically to e-commerce and the capture/auth of those merchants. Most of you on this forum will use this platform exclusively. Drawbacks are an early, (especially for west coast) cutoff time for next day funding. That's a conversation in itself. Hope this helps, Steve
As OneRate said, each host primarily caters to a different market segment. API wise, all are vastly different. Feature wise, each has there pros and cons but for the most part all this is moot. Your merchant bank will dictate which host you use.
If you want to keep your options available, consider using a gateway that interfaces to all four First Data hosts and possibly other processors. Hope this helps.