As Apple gears up to mainstream mobile payments with the recently announced Apple Pay service launching later this month, the social networking giant Facebook is developing its own peer-to-peer payment service that should allow users of its Messenger software to transfer money between themselves, as discovered by iOS developer Andre Aude.
The solution simplifies money transfers by levering the existing Messenger infrastructure and user interface, allowing users to pay for goods directly in the chat window just like you would attach a photo or a location.
A history of payments is available within Messenger’s settings and “you don’t even have to link a bank account,” according to Aude on Twitter. The Stanford University computer science student was able to dig out traces of the feature with the developer tool Cycript.
Users can only link their debit cards and the PayPal option isn’t present in the current incarnation despite mentions in the Messenger code. All transactions are handled through an ACH electronic transfer to the checking account of the recipient.
While it’s currently possible to only initiate peer-to-peer transactions between two chat participants, Aude says that payment between multiple participants is coming later.
Aude was inspired by security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski’s findings last month related to payments code in Facebook Messenger.
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently hinted that his company has been working on a mobile payment product. And back in June, the company hired former PayPal president David Marcus to lead Messenger development.
Rival Google previously unveiled a system allowing Gmail users to send and receive money via a new Send Money button and Square in August introduced a similar solution, Square Cash, seen below.
Apple, as mentioned before, will launch its own Apple Pay solution later this month.
It taps Touch ID fingerprint identification, NFC and the existing iTunes user base to let owners of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the forthcoming Apple Watch pay for goods and services online and at select brick-and-mortar locations in the United States.
Apple’s system involves tokens to increase your security as token-based payments cut the sensitive credit card information data out of transaction data, resulting in the “most secure payments scheme on the planet,” as per TUAW’s excellent overview of the many layers of security behind Apple Pay.
Would you trust Facebook with your money?