Ok, you’re hearing it here first.
All this hullabaloo about the new Messenger app — supposedly downloaded more than a billion times already — and dead silence from FB in return. No defending it, no apologizing for it, nope, not a word. Mum. Radio silence. For an app that’s averaging one star in the ratings and reviews.
So this can go one of two ways, if you think about it. Just like the uproar last month when someone at FB admitted that they play tricks on people to see how they’ll react – changing the algorithms for certain feeds, checking to see if they can swing peoples’ moods one way or another, and so forth – this could be a big ole joke, on everyone. And FB will roll us all back to the regular FB app and say something along the lines of, sorry, you guys didn’t like it, and we listened. Great PR in the making if that’s the case.
I don’t think that is the case. I believe that with Apple’s Passbook (and iBeacon) making headlines everywhere, Google having a wallet, Amazon launching a wallet, Paypal launching a wallet, Samsung launching a wallet, err, you get my drift, yes? Facebook must have a wallet in the making. If we look at why Google, Samsung, ISIS (carrier created and AMEX supported, in the midst of a re-naming and re-branding we understand), and some other wallets have not done well, the number one factor would be lack of distribution guarantee. When someone has the choice of downloading this wallet or that wallet, they quite often download NO wallet. Or they don’t use it because they have no interest in it.
The approach that Apple is taking with their wallet – Passbook (and likely Healthbook in the iOS8 update), is more of a forced feature that is integral to the operating system and can’t be removed. Any competitors, like Google Wallet or ISIS or Amazon, are second class citizens in this economy since users have to go and get the app, install the app, open the app, use the app, remember they have the app, and all that good stuff that creates the normal lack of interest and speedy destruction of most apps that make it to a production release.
The approach that Facebook is taking with Messenger is also more of a forced feature – if you want to message on mobile, you will change to the app. Or you won’t receive messages, even though the regular app will tease you with their existence.
So Facebook has the opportunity to be like Apple – put an app on many, many phones and make it stick. What FB doesn’t have is a base of valid credit card numbers that is nearly 600 million strong. The only other companies in the potential wallet as a payment platform who have anything like that are Amazon (200+ million) and Paypal (120 million approximately) – and both companies have released wallet products recently.
If I were betting, I’d go with Paypal teaming up with Facebook (especially since we know that Paypal tried to cut a deal with Apple but got rebuffed back in the spring); this would offer each company leverage it doesn’t currently have, and a much better chance to get in early and dominate the market.
Visa/MC have their own ideas, with Visa Checkout and MasterPass, but either company would be considerably relieved if any wallet that relies on credit card funding gains traction – or all wallets for that matter – since it only ups their stake in the game. The one thing that the card issuers don’t want is for end users to gain a method of funding these wallets that does not involve traditional debit or credit products in card number form. With the transition to EMV by October 2015 in the works for all US terminals (and this includes every ATM in the US), it’s a crazy time to be in the business of physical or virtual credit card acceptance.
Merchants could swing towards mPOS (including iPad or other tablet cash registers), shutting out the traditional POS terminal makers, mostly as a matter of cost versus functionality, or the Verifones and NCRs could get in early and retain a dominant role, that’s too close a race to call yet.
Oh well, you heard it here first. Facebook Messenger is the seed of a mobile wallet product that will likely be paired with an existing deposit account, and I’m guessing it’s Paypal. I think initially we’ll see geo-fencing notifications, indoor locator beacons, and some other time based notifications, followed by the addition of the payments feature sometime in 2015 being the likely earliest that can be rolled out.