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Facebook's new payments plan
November 15, 2019

A conversational newsletter from Zendesk 

Last time we spoke I mentioned that Libra, Facebook’s much-anticipated cryptocurrency, appeared to be swimming against the crypto-current. 

First, many of its high-profile financial partners started distancing themselves from the project. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent a bad awful day in Washington getting grilled by skeptical lawmakers. 

But this week the company unveiled a whole other conversational payments tool — and it may be a key step in Facebook’s mission to build one messaging platform to rule them all.
 

Pay it forward 💸

Meet Facebook Pay, a new way to send money on Facebook’s family of apps — Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram (for now it only works on the first two, and only in the U.S.). 

Business Insider notes the feature is similar to Venmo, Google Wallet and Apple Pay. It works with international debit and credit cards like Visa and Mastercard and it will use PayPal and Stripe to process payments.

Interestingly, those financial giants I just mentioned were among the brands who recently backed out of the Libra project — though there’s no reason Libra can’t be added as a currency option in Facebook Pay down the line. 

As Engadget puts it, the cross-platform payment service will “help grease the wheels of Facebook’s great unification” — the plan to merge the backends of its three popular chat apps.

The launch also comes a week after Facebook unveiled a new ALL-CAPS logo meant to bring the WhatsApp and Instagram brands in line with the mothership.

In-chat payments would make Facebook’s messaging ecosystem even stickier and more like Asian messaging apps like WeChat, which dominates digital commerce in China, and Line, which The Wall Street Journal reported is in talks to merge with Yahoo Japan. 

In its announcement post, Facebook made its ambitions clear:
 

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Facebook Pay is part of our ongoing work to make commerce more convenient, accessible and secure for people on our apps.

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WhatsApponomics 🍦

Facebook Pay is not the company’s first and only conversational commerce play. “Checkout with Instagram” launched in May, allowing users to buy stuff from major brands without leaving the app. 

WhatsApp Pay has been in beta in India since 2017, though the Indian government seemed to put the kibosh on a full-scale launch last week amid concerns over privacy and encryption. 

WhatsApp has become indispensable to small businesses in places like India and Mexico. Five million merchants around the world use WhatsApp Business to sell their wares through the world’s most popular messaging channel, effectively leapfrogging old school ecommerce.

 As one Indian ice cream shop owner told Crunchbase:
 

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It’s the lifeblood of our business.

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Also last week (it’s been a busy fortnight in Messagingville), WhatsApp added a “mobile storefront” feature to its SMB app, enabling businesses to build interactive in-chat catalogs to share with customers. 

Of course, the WhatsApp Business app shouldn’t be confused with WhatsApp’s Business API, which lets enterprise brands manage WhatsApp conversations using their own CRM. 

But it’s only a matter of time until the feature gets added to the API. When it does, it will bring the future of conversational business that much closer. 

My Belated Valentine

As if we needed more reasons to toss SMS into the dustbin of messaging history, here’s one more. 

Last Thursday, thousands of people in the U.S. and Canada woke up to baffling, out-of-the blue text messages from friends, family members — and estranged lovers. 

Turns out Syniverse — a third-party vendor that works with several North American carriers — accidentally delivered at least 170,000 messages that had been stuck in the queue for months, according to Quartz

Making things worse, many of the messages had originally been sent on Valentine’s Day. Panic and awkwardness ensued. 

CBC News spoke to a 25-year-old Californian who received a text from an ex she’d stopped talking to. Another woman got a 5am text from her sister that just said, “omg.” 

Her sister had just given birth and she feared something had gone horribly wrong at the hospital. Three hours later, she learned about the messaging mishap. 
 

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"Now it's funny," she said. "But out of context, it was not cool."

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😍Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to send me your feedback, story ideas and long-lost texts by responding to this email. 

Dan Levy
Editor-in-chief 
@danjl


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