Facebook Messenger payments feature discovered

Friend-to-friend payments

An as-yet unannounced feature has been discovered in the Facebook Messenger app, which will enable friends to send payments to each other.

Stanford University computer science student Andrew Aude stumbled across the feature on Saturday, while using iOS developer toolkit Cycript. He posted screenshots on Twitter that appear to show an option to attach a payment to a message, in the same way that photos can currently be attached. The user simply enters an amount, enters a PIN code for security, and hits send.

The service can use card details already registered with Facebook (for example for in-game purchases), or new debit card details can be added. The code Aude discovered currently only allows debit card payments, and as yet does not mention any fees. However, he speculated that credit card payments and a charge for the service could be added over time, which would monetise the app.

Payment clues

Mark Zuckerberg hinted at these developments in Facebook's Q2 earnings call in July, saying with regards to Messenger, "over time there will be some overlap between that and payments". He added that this will "help people share with each other and interact with businesses", suggesting the service might not stop at friend-to-friend payments.

Furthermore, many have anticipated Facebook's move into payments since the company hired former PayPal president David Marcus as new head of Messenger in June 2014.

If and when the feature eventually rolls out, it will put Facebook in competition with PayPal, as well as popular app Square Cash. Messenger currently boasts 200 million active users; furthermore if the payment functionality was also to roll out to the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, 600 million active users would have access to the service.

Facebook has so far not commented on the discovery.