Facebook's big plan for payments is, true to its core mission, to build its network of friends as much as possible.
Facebook Messenger, a communication platform with 800 million users, will host various experiments and to incorporate more use of video, payments and other interactive features, Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships for Facebook, said March 2 during the annual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference.
In March of 2015, Facebook added a person-to-person payment capability for U.S. Messenger users, enabling free money transfers through linked Visa or MasterCard debit cards. The transfers are not considered "real time" as the banks settle the payments days later.
Still, the move marked a milestone for the Messenger business after it came under the leadership of PayPal president David Marcus. The hiring of Marcus in mid-2014 signaled Facebook's interest in building out its digital payment capabilities.
Though Rose did not mention any specific future payment developments in his presentation, he and Facebook's chief financial officer, David Wehner, hinted at various features Facebook could use to enable payments.
"We have a developer ecosystem that we manage around our partnership function; there are so many people using our app we sometimes need help in other areas, making it an important part of what we do," Rose said.
Facebook's extended suite of products, such as Instagram, WhatsApp and "Facebook at Work," rely on media partnerships, Rose said. "But we also support our very early work in commerce around Messenger, with our partnerships with payments companies."
The company is communicating with third-party businesses as it begins to develop Facebook at Work for a global launch. More than 450 companies are currently testing Facebook at Work, which faces its sternest competition from messaging services like Slack.
The feature allows businesses to build their own social network as a communication and teamwork tool. Facebook is trying to ascertain how it can monetize many of its features, Rose said, and Facebook at Work is a logical candidate that can blend secure communications with payments.
Future advancements on WhatsApp and Messenger may echo features such as the recently added ability to schedule an Uber ride from within a Messenger conversation.
The Messenger development team at Facebook has taken the approach that it can provide more features and expand its use easier than with the simpler WhatsApp platform. "They are both growing and doing well, but we are certainly focusing on experimenting in Messenger first," Wehner said.
Facebook already has 50 million small businesses connected and that foundation is a "natural fit" with the Messenger product for consumers to communicate with those businesses, he added.
TenCent Holdings' WeChat instant messaging and digital wallet service had been valued at $83.6 billion a year ago, illustrating the potential for messaging apps to branch out to financial services.