It’s the place to update friends about your day, share pictures and catch up on the gossip.
But in the future, Facebook users could use the site to make electronic payments and save money too.
The social network is rumoured to be seeking regulatory approval to offer financial services – including electronic money and remittances – which would, for example, allow foreign workers to easily transfer money back to their families.
Facebook is seeking regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Ireland, which, if it is granted, would allow people to store money on the social network, transfer it to other users and pay for goods, according to a report by The Financial Times.
If Facebook becomes an e-money institution, it could issue units of monetary value, stored on its site, against its own worth and this emoney could be used by people.
The social network is also rumoured to have approached three London startups – TransferWise, Moni Technologies and Azimo – that already offer international money transfer via smartphone apps.
While UK users may be wary of the security implications of storing money on Facebook, a move into remittances would help Facebook gain an even stronger foothold in emerging markets including India and Africa.
While Facebook has not commented on the rumours a source, said to be familiar with the details, told The Financial Times: ‘Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion.’
If those in developing nations flock to Facebook, the company would boost its advertising revenues, and e-money services could become a big attraction – it would be particularly useful to users in areas without easy access to banks.
Recent research undertaken by McKinsey found that internet use in Africa is on a par with Brazil and China and therefore emoney ‘is not a crazy idea’ in emerging economies.
Facebook is not the only internet giant dipping its toe into banking, however.
China’s Tencent and Alibaba are turning their sites into mobile payment platforms in order to offer consumers an alternative to using their credit cards.
Google is also ramping up its mobile payments and wallet services, which has yet to be widely adopted by consumers.