Facebook may be looking to get into the digital wallet game, according to source code uncovered byThe Information. Some of the commands discovered in the latest version of Facebook’s Messenger app include “pay in person,” “pay directly in Messenger when you pick up the item,” and “no cash needed.” The company declined to comment, making it presently unclear whether the features will ever actually see the light of day. If true, the social network giant may be lining up to compete against companies like Apple, PayPal, Google, and Samsung, who have been in this space since as early as 2011.
The news appears to counter statements made to investors by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in late January. “We don’t view ourselves as a payments business, that’s not the type of company that we are,” Zuckerberg said on an earnings call. “We’ll partner with everyone who does payments,” he added, citing Apple Pay as one of the players in the space whose innovations appeal to him and the company. At the time, it seemed Facebook was positioning itself for an e-commerce push, to be aided by other digital wallets. The same source code mentioned above reveals that an emphasis on e-commerce may still be the plan, with features that would allow users to view “suggested businesses” — presumably based on likes and their account preferences.
This wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has dabbled in payments, however. In March 2015, Facebook Messenger rolled out its first foray into the payments market by allowing friend-to-friend transaction, similar to what PayPal or Venmo offer. However, unlike the latter, Facebook’s app did not allow users to make credit cards as payments, due to the processing fees involved.
For any company looking to get into mobile payments space, the list of obstacles is substantial. For example, Facebook would need cooperation from financial institutions to create the appropriate infrastructure that can handle these transactions. When Apple Pay first launched it worked with banks to incorporate security standards. Tim Sloane of The n>genuity Journal wrote that Apple set the bar so high with their implementation of Apple Pay that it creates challenges in “gathering support and endorsement across the payments value chain.”