Facebook rolled out a limited trial of its new mobile payments service yesterday with a select list of retailers and users. Autofill connects whatever payment details users have entered into their Facebook to the details that an online retailer requires, effectively simplifying the process of digital payments. All users have to do is identify themselves by correctly entering their Facebook details and the app “autofills” the boxes on the forms.
But this isn’t the big play for digital in-person mobile payments you may be imagining. The system works only in mobile apps, and seems designed to speed up those moments when you’re shopping online, perhaps while commuting, and need to enter your payment info. The launch is being tested with a small number of consumers and only with two retailers: The Braintree-powered Jack Threads, and Mosaic. Facebook is reportedly planning a roll out to all users soon, and is looking to partner with other payment firms like Stripe and PayPal.
Facebook’s maneuver is a subtle one, because it inserts the social network into the digital payments process without getting in the way of the user’s intentions or the transaction itself. If anything, Facebook is merely trying to speed up the mobile payment process. Facebook may be able to leverage the autofill to present ads to users, and it’s also possible it could gather data on users’ shopping habits to help inform its own advertising graph. But there are bigger moves in the effort to revolutionize mobile payments, and it’s hard to see where Facebook’s efforts will fit in to in-store transactions in systems like Google Wallet.