Facebook has unveiled a new payments system that will eventually allow users to send money across its trio of networks, as the social media group presses ahead with integrating WhatsApp and Instagram more closely with its core platform.
The company said on Tuesday that Facebook Pay would allow users to shop, make donations or send money to each other across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp in a “convenient, secure and consistent” way.
Currently, Facebook allows users to send money through its Messenger service only, although it has been testing allowing users to make purchases on Instagram in the US.
Facebook Pay will be rolled out this week on the Facebook and Messenger apps in the US for peer-to-peer payments as well as purchases from certain businesses and several other services, it said.
“Over time, we plan to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp,” the Silicon Valley-based group added.
The move marks the first concrete step towards chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to merge its three messaging apps into one encrypted system, dubbed “Whatstabook”.
Announced earlier this year as a “pivot to privacy”, some critics have suggested the goal of the overhaul is to make the company harder to prise apart, as antitrust authorities increasingly circle big technology companies.
Meanwhile, Mr Zuckerberg signalled his intentions this year to blend the company’s advertising-driven business model with ecommerce, enabling users to buy advertised products without ever having to leave the platform. In turn, the data collected from users about transactions will help inform further targeted advertising.
“The actions you take with Facebook Pay can be used for purposes such as to deliver you more relevant content and ads [and] to provide customer support,” Facebook said in a separate blog post on Tuesday.
The move also comes as Facebook faces pushback from some politicians, central banks and regulators over its plans to launch its own digital currency, Libra, together with a consortium of businesses such as Vodafone, Uber and Spotify.
But Facebook said that Facebook Pay will be “built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships”, processing payments with partners such as PayPal and Stripe. It also will be separate from Calibra, the digital wallet that it is designing for users to hold Libra on its platform, it said.
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