Have a mental look through your microtransaction news archives, and you’ll probably remember Facebook’s J Morgenstern’s call to developers that were interested in working on an in-platform microtransactions/payments solution. Got that ‘oh yeah’ memory on hand? Good, because as it stands right now, a memory is all it is and will be.
Morgenstern’s initial offer required developers to sign a tight lipped NDA (non-disclosure agreement), possibly resulting in less than spectacular interest, and coverage/development news around the internet and amounted to nothing more than a mere ripple. Surprising, as we know more about Zuckerberg’s choice in footwear than what could have been (and still could very well be for the right development team) the biggest news of the year. At the time of the initial offer, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel didn’t hesitate and quickly became a primary source of funding, along with pulling up a chair at the Facebook board members table via his Founders Fund.
A highlight of the initial developer call reads:
Transaction-based applications that use virtual currencies or kick users out to PayPal could soon start accepting payments from users directly in their applications.
A Platform payment system could also be a significant revenue generator for Facebook. While Facebook is not making money directly from application use (developers keep 100% of ad sales), developers would be happy to pay a commission for the service.
Sounds reasonable, if not downright right on the money. Fast forward one year, and it looks like the facebook in-house transaction system might be moving slightly faster that molasses. Justin Smith of Inside Facebook ran a post on the 29th of December stating:
…one year later, Facebook has not developed the system, and some signs from the company point to the project being on hold altogether while it focuses on other priorities.
Facebook has apparently decided not to get in the middle of third party transactions, leaving merchant solutions to other payment processors. Developers can continue to choose between established providers like Paypal and new entrants like Spare Change and Zong.
When asked directly about the future of a Facebook Platform payments system this afternoon, a Facebook spokesperson said, “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.”
The very next day, Smith ran in article analyzing why Facebook have deprioritized an in-platform payment solution. While the article itself is insightful, a read of readers comments (both negative and positive) should be required reading for anyone involved in the microtransaction field.
While this might be a bit of a setback for Facebook itself, I DO know a certain facilitator of microtransactions, particularly in the way of social commerce monetization that already has a tool ready to roll: fatfoogoo.