Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg let slip a huge piece of news on his earnings call yesterday in terms of the way Facebook will develop e-commerce revenues in the future: a payments system will eventually be developed for Messenger, Facebook’s mobile messaging app.
Zuckerberg warned, somewhat testily, that payments were coming in the long-run, “years,” to be precise, not the short-run. Facebook wasn’t going to take “the cheap and easy approach and just try to put ads in or do payments and make some money in the short term. … we’re not going to do that.”
But, more importantly from a strategic point of view, he also said Messenger will have some “overlap” with payments. The move will not be a total surprise. Facebook has been trying for years to come up with an e-commerce or payments system of one sort or another. Messenger now has more than 200 million monthly users, and several rival messaging apps can already be used for payments, so it makes sense that a payments mechanism might eventually be added to Messenger.
Here’s how Zuckerberg revealed the news:
RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney asked Zuckerberg why he had poached David Marcus from PayPal to run Messenger. Mahaney said the move was like “signing Messi up to the Miami Heat, like it’s little of an odd transition. Are we looking at it wrong? Is there any particular reason why he wouldn’t be more focused on payments?”
Zuckerberg seemed to find that question a little bit insulting. And he made overt efforts to nip in the bud the idea that analysts ought to start adding in revenue estimates for payments inside Messenger into their financial prediction models for the company. Here’s Zuckerberg’s reply:
Messenger will have — over time there will be some overlap between that and payments. But I guess what I’m just trying to say is two things. One is, the payments piece will be a part of what will help drive the overall success and help people share with each other and interact with businesses. But we’re really focused on the interactions overall, rather than the mechanism and David shares that view.
And the second thing is just that there’s so much ground work that we need to do in order to make it so that people are communicating with businesses and public figures and entities in these other apps that we’re building, which is part of the business ecosystem. And I really can’t underscore that enough that we have a lot of work to do and we could take the cheap and easy approach and just try to put ads in or do payments and make some money in the short term. But we’re not going to do that. So to the extent that any of your models or anything reflects that we might be doing that, I would strongly encourage you here to adjust that, because we’re not going to and we’re going to take time to do this in the way that we think that’s going to be right over multiple years.