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Just a few months after Facebook hired PayPal President David Marcus, the company looks all set to enter the mobile payments market. According to a TechCrunch report, a friend-to-friend payments transfer option already exists in Facebook Messenger, and all the company has to do is to turn it on.
The feature would allow users to transfer funds via messaging in much the same way they send a photo. So far, it appears that Messenger payments work only with debit cards – you can add a new debit card to the app or use the one that's already on file with Facebook. There's also an in-app pin code for extra security.
"The mechanism it uses is to debit one account, and then use some magical means to lookup the bank account number of the recipient and ACH [Automated Clearing House] deposit it, Identical to Square Cash", said Andrew Aude, the Stanford computer science student who discovered the feature.
The payments system currently allows you to send money to only one person at a time, but it will probably support group payments in the future. As for fees, there's no apparent mention of charges for using the service, however considering this is an early leak, this is bound to change before the system launches.
It was security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski who first discovered the presence of payments code in Messenger last month, and according to Aude, the discovery prompted him to dig deep into the app's code. He used Cycript, a tool that attaches to a running program on iOS or OS X, and allows users to explore and even modify it.
Back in July, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on the company's Q2 earnings call that "over time there will be some overlap between that [Messenger] and payments". However, he also stressed that it would take time. "There's so much groundwork for us to do".