Facebook appears to have already gotten a leg up on mobile payments. According to a new report from TechCrunch, a new friend-to-friend payment option already exists in Facebook Messenger. The social network just has to flip the switch on the feature, and it appears as if users will be able to send each other cash as easily as they might otherwise send a photo or cat emoticon.
All of the nitty-gritty details were found by Stanford University student Andrew Aude, who dug deep into the app’s code to find what Facebook’s been hiding after security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski first tipped Facebook’s hand one month prior.
To send a payment along, you can either input a brand-new card or use one you already have on file with Facebook—and, yes, your payment system can be protected by a unique PIN number, just in case you lose your smartphone and someone decides to send themselves a ton of your cash (which would make it rather easy to find to culprit, we suppose).
So far, it appears as if users can only use their debit cards with the payment service—presumably, because the fee for doing so is much less than forwarding someone cash via a credit card charge or direct pull from one’s bank account. Though using Paypal to so source the transaction isn’t an option that’s available in the graphical version of the payment system, Aude found code that suggests it could be a possibility.
While the current version of Facebook’s payments only allows one user to give to another, notes within the app’s code suggest that users will, at some point, be able to pay groups of people at once.
Where the speculation starts is just how Facebook might benefit from the feature. It could offer up mobile payments for absolutely free in an effort to drive more users to its services (or keep them entwined with Facebook Messenger for longer). It might also skim off the top in the form of service fees for payments—if that’s the case, we don’t have any idea just yet of what those might be.
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously (and recently) hinted that the company is indeed working on “overlapping” its Messenger with a payments system, he’s been pretty clear in his cautions to investors that the company plans to get mobile payments correct first and foremost—Facebook isn’t just going to rush to a solution out the door.
That said, we’re not sure when Facebook might officially unveil its payments system. Aude speculates that it could arrive in the U.S. within the next few months, but it’s also possible that the uncovered code could just be part of an early testing of the system.