Roughly fourteen months ago, Facebook made waves in the world of virtual goods by making an open call to discuss the development of an in-house microtransaction system. While interested developers had to sign NDAs, they were also promised goodies like early access to a beta test of what the company then called "Payments on Facebook". Industry watchers could only read this as a desire by Facebook to take control of a service currently provided by third parties like PayPal and Zong in Facebook apps.
After what may have been a year of deliberation, Facebook has put plans to take microtransactions in-house on hiatus. Inside Facebook reports that Facebook has decided not to disrupt ongoing relationships between Facebook app developers and third-party payment services. For the foreseeable future, devs will continue to freely choose which third-party service handles microtransactions in their Facebook apps.
"We’ve been excited by advertising and payments solutions provided by
the market, and we currently do not have anything to share around a
Facebook Payments system at this time," stated a Facebook representative to Inside Facebook regarding the situation.
What isn't clear is exactly why Facebook has decided to put plans for an integrated payment system for Facebook Platform on hold. While figures for virtual gift revenue on Facebook are still scarce, the market is clearly large enough that Facebook could turn a healthy profit off of transaction fees. An integrated payment system could also lure more Facebook users into spending in platform apps, by ensuring that all apps are accepting payment from a uniform source.
Still, Facebook hasn't stated that plans for an integrated payment system are being scrapped outright. It is entirely possible that at some point in the future, Facebook could still attempt to displace services currently provided by third parties with its own payment system. Inside Facebook has speculated that what Facebook is really doing here is prioritizing growth of Facebook Platform over a desire to immediately monetize the current community of apps. If so, then it's just a matter of time before an in-house Facebook microtransaction system becomes a reality.
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