Facebook Messenger is already set up to allow users to send each other money, but has yet to turn on the feature. Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude released screenshots and video of his successful attempt to hack into the messenger app and turn on the dormant function.
The payments service will be incredibly simple once turned on, Aude told TechCrunch. You simply hit a button to initiate a payment, enter the amount you want to send, and send it. Facebook keeps the transaction private and doesn’t publish anything about it to the News Feed.
Users can add a debit card in Messenger, or use one they already have on file with Facebook. An in-app pincode also exists for added security around payments. The service currently only allows the use of debit cards, as these transactions are ordinarily cheaper.
It is unclear whether Facebook will monetise the service, or use it as an incentive for more people to use the standalone messenger app. Facebook is hoping the payments app will allow Messenger to compete with other messaging apps as well as Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, and other peer-to-peer money transfer apps. In fact, the ability to send money through an app that is already on your phone in a messaging capacity could stop you from even considering a standalone payments app.
The presence of payments code in Messenger was first discovered by security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski last month. But the service is unlikely to go live any time soon.
“Over time there will be some overlap between [Messenger] and payments. […] The payments piece will be a part of what will help drive the overall success and help people share with each other and interact with businesses, ” Mark Zuckerburg said on Facebook’s Q2 earnings call. But the CEO reminded Wal Street that “there’s so much groundwork for us to do.”
“We’re going to take the time to do this in the way that is going to be right over multiple years” Zuckerberg concluded.
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