One of my longstanding gripes with Facebook Platform has been its lack of a unified payment platform that would offer developers a way to tie a Facebook-branded payment system into their apps. Back in March 2008, the company announced that one was coming in the “next 180 days”. That milestone came and went, and since then the company has been quiet about its current progress (we’re typically told things like “It’s not coming out any time soon”).
But now it sounds like payments are finally starting to make some headway, reports Eric Eldon of VentureBeat, who writes that Facebook is set to begin testing a payment system with developers “in a few weeks”. We’ve independently confirmed that Facebook is indeed planning to test a payment platform, and that it will be a limited to a very small number of developers.
The need for a payment platform may not be immediately obvious – after all, there are already quite a few ways for developers to accept payments through third party services like PayPal, and some companies are making quite a bit of money in the process. But for the end-user it is night and day. Users would only have to fill in their credit card information one time, and would also trust the platform more than they would a third party. The lowered barrier to entry would likely result in an increase in the number of transactions across many applications, as developers shifted their revenue models away from advertising (which has generally done poorly on Facebook) and into virtual goods and premium services. Facebook could potentially extend the platform to allow payments on other sites, too, though I suspect they’ll make sure its working on their home court before they take it elsewhere.