In among all the discussion around Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency, and whether it'll ever meet regulatory requirements, and get off the ground as a dedicated Facebook payment tool, it's been interesting to note The Social Network's continued work on WhatsApp and Facebook Pay, alternative payment processes which essentially facilitate the same thing, but are built on the back of existing financial infrastructure instead.
If Libra hadn't been a thing, would we be looking at Facebook Pay a little more closely?
Regardless, this week, Facebook has announced the roll-out of Facebook Pay to US users, which will facilitate on-platform payments, in-stream, making it easier for people to buy products on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.
As explained by Facebook:
"With Facebook Pay you can:
- Add your preferred payment method once then use Facebook Pay where available to make payments and purchases on our apps, instead of having to re-enter your payment information each time
- Set up Facebook Pay app-by-app, or choose to set it up for use across apps (where available) — that means we won’t automatically set up Facebook Pay across the apps you are active on, unless you choose to do so
- View payment history, manage payment methods and update your settings in one place
- Get real-time customer support via live chat in the US (and in more places around the world in the future)
- Clearly understand which payment services are part of Facebook"
As you can see here, you set up Facebook Pay by connecting it to a debit card or PayPal account. You then add a dedicated PIN, or alternatively, you can use face ID to unlock your payment details. Interestingly, reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong uncovered a new Facebook facial recognition process in the back-end of the app last week, which may be related to this release.
Once you've entered in your details, you can then exchange money with connections - as in the top sequence above - or you can purchase items. This example shows how Facebook Pay works on Marketplace listings:
Initially, Facebook Pay will be available as a payment option for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments, purchases from select Pages using Facebook Checkout and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Facebook says that it hopes to expand Facebook Pay to more people and places, including use across Instagram and WhatsApp, over time.
As noted, Facebook has actually been working to expand its payment options in other regions over the past few months, with the similar WhatsApp Pay proving particularly popular among Indian and Indonesian users. And while its Libra currency is looking a little shaky, Facebook does have payment options to consider, and can still facilitate largely the same use case - albeit without the capacity to reduce the costs of funds transfer, which is a key lure of Libra.
Basically, even without Libra, Facebook is able to move ahead with its payment tools, and that could open up a whole new world of opportunities for businesses. Instagram, for example, launched Instagram Checkout with selected partners earlier in the year.
Facebook Pay could make it easier to facilitate the same, and as people become more used to transferring money within the apps that they're already using for browsing and connecting, that could open up greater opportunities for Facebook to maximize its payment tools in even more ways.
Facebook is taking extra care to ensure that people are aware of the safety measures it has in place, while it's also moving to distance Facebook Pay from the Libra project:
"Facebook Pay is built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships, and is separate from the Calibra wallet which will run on the Libra network."
But as we already know, convenience wins out over such concerns anyway.
It'll be interesting to see whether users warm to Facebook Pay, and what Facebook enables brands to do next with the option.
You can read more about Facebook Pay here.