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Facebook Messenger Ready for Peer-to-Peer Payments?

A hidden-away feature on Facebook Messenger appears to be ready enable users to take advantage of peer-to-peer (P2P) payments whenever Facebook decides to implement the service. Screenshots and videos of the feature were taken by Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude following a heads-up last month by digital forensic expert Jonathan Zdziarski.

We reached out to Aude to learn more about how close to implementation the Messenger payment system appears to be. “It’s ready to go,” Aude told us. “However Facebook can flip the switch on a user-by-user basis.”

‘Works like Square Cash’

In a September 9 Tweet, Zdziarski posted an image showing a long string of text codes, each line beginning with +[FBPaymentsCreditCard …]. “Not necessarily the best design to keep credit card details in Objective-C objects in resident memory. But meh,” Zdziarski said at the time.

On Saturday, Aude Tweeted an image of his own, showing a string of Facebook payments-related text with the message, “@Facebook Messenger has P2P payments coming. @SquareCash style.”

We asked Aude to compare the Messenger system to other P2P payment systems. “It works like Square Cash because it’s entirely debit card based, and you don’t have to link a bank to use it,” he told us.

We also reached out to Facebook. However, a spokesperson said the company declined to comment at this time.

PayPal Exec Joins Facebook

The discovery makes sense in light of recent moves by Facebook. In June, for example, the company announced that David Marcus, formerly the president of PayPal, was joining Facebook to lead its efforts in mobile messaging.

Facebook has also been testing a “buy” button on users’ news feeds. Launched in July, the feature lets users click a button to buy directly from an online retailer without leaving Facebook. The company noted at the time that the feature is a test limited to a few small and medium-size businesses in the U.S.

Facebook is also promoting the development of new monetization strategies through FbStart, a program designed to help developers get new apps up and running.

In addition to Square Cash and PayPal, other peer-to-peer payment systems include Dwolla, Popmoney, Venmo and Google Wallet. Apple has also moved into payment apps with its Apple Pay service for quick mobile purchases set to roll out later this month.

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