Facebook to offer automated payments on messenger

Facebook has announced that it will offer bot-assisted in-app payments on Messenger.

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Facebook Messenger chief David Marcus says the app will offer bots that can accept payments for goods and services without sending users to outside sites.

Facebook has stepped up its assault on old-school text messaging, announcing Monday that its Messenger app will allow bots to process payments in-app without taking users to external websites.

The news is part of a broad Facebook push to keep its 1.3 billion global users inside its ecosystem, typified by recent moves such as allowing consumers to order Uber rides without exiting Messenger.

“Building an ecosystem is not easy and it takes time,” said David Marcus, Facebook vice president in charge of Messenger, who made the bot-centric announcement at TechCrunch Disrupt here Monday.

Marcus described a bot – which is an artificially intelligent consumer-interaction tool – created by Absolut Vodka that would offer eligible users both a free drink at select bars as well as a Lyft ride home.

“But it’s not about bots, it’s about creating an experience that allows users to interact with brands, people and services,” he said.

Marcus noted that 34,000 developers have joined Messenger’s closed beta development platform and have built 30,000 bots since the April launch. He also revealed that the app’s video and voice calling feature has hit 300 million monthly active users. Messenger has so far notched a billion users.

Facebook launched Messenger in 2011, and then three years later disabled the messaging function on Facebook in order to steer users to the app. Also in 2014, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg paid $19 billion for WhatsApp, a globally popular messaging app that also has more than a billion users. WhatsApp features voice-over-Internet (VOiP) calling, a feature that Messenger is just beginning to exploit.

Asked by a TechCrunch moderator whether Facebook Messenger’s mission was to “kill SMS,” or traditional text messaging,” Marcus smiled.

“Really it’s just a question of (giving users) reach,” he said. “You want to be able to reach all (of your contacts), not just 95%.”

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