WHATSAPP is planning to fully launch its own mobile payments system – letting you send cash to pals via text.
It’s called WhatsApp Pay, and would work as an alternative to features in other popular apps like PayPal or Monzo.
WhatsApp first launched back in 2009 as a standalone messaging service.
But it has quickly grown to perform lots of features, including offering users video ‘statuses’, group video calls and even customer service from businesses.
Much of this is thanks to Facebook, which bought WhatsApp in 2014 for around £15billion.
Now Facebook’s big plan is to allow for mobile payments on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Pay has been in testing in India since last year.
But now Facebook said it is preparing to launch the feature fully in the country – serving all 400million users locally.
“It’s a regulatory approval question in India at this point,” Mark Zuckerberg said this week.
He also gave hope for a UK launch, adding: “We’re also working beyond India in a number of other countries and hope to have this rolled out to a large percent of the people who use WhatsApp within the next year.”
The bad news is that Zuckerberg hasn’t confirmed whether the UK will be part of the line-up of countries getting WhatsApp Pay – but it seems likely.
WhatsApp is the most popular chat app in Britain, according to Hootsuite.
It’s estimated that around 58% of all UK internet users use the Facebook-owned chat app.
Speaking to The Sun, PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore said: “Facebook has struggled to make money from WhatsApp. It needs to find ways to monetise this highly engaged and loyal customer base.
“Payments seems a sensible way but it is fast becoming a crowded base with offerings from the likes of Apple and Google. Telcos are also getting excited about this area.
“Such services resonate in emerging markets but will inevitably be rolled out in other countries like the UK to allow people to make transfers to India.”
WhatsApp declined to confirm launch timings for other markets.
But in a statement given to The Sun, WhatsApp global head Will Cathcart said: “We’re excited to have launched a successful pilot of WhatsApp Payments on the UPI standard, and we are looking forward to expanding it.
“WhatsApp Payments will make it as easy to pay someone on WhatsApp as it is to send a message.
“Payments services are critical to accelerating financial inclusion and bringing millions more people into India’s fast-growing digital economy.
“We can’t wait to provide this service to our users across India this year.”
It’s also likely that WhatsApp will market the payment service heavily on security.
That’s because WhatsApp is a fully encrypted chat app – scrambling your messages so that only the recipient can read them.
WhatsApp will be keen to make sure that WhatsApp Pay is watertight in terms of privacy – though details are light for now.