It’s no secret that Facebook has ambitions of turning its popular Messenger app into a mobile hub for services, commerce, and even artificial intelligence. The social network is taking a page from popular Asian messaging apps like Tencent-owned WeChat, which has been allowing Chinese consumers to access transportation services and buy items for some time. Today, Facebook is one step closer to becoming like WeChat, with the ability for Messenger users to order Uber cars directly from the app.
Facebook Messenger users will soon be able to order and pay for an Uber from directly within the Messenger mobile app, which counts 700 million users worldwide. Within a conversation with a friend in the Messenger app, users can tap the More menu and choose Transportation. Users can also search within Messenger services for Uber and tap the car icon to request a ride. Or, if a friend sends an address within Messenger, a user can click on that address and choose Uber as an option. Before ordering a car, users login to their Uber accounts.
From there, users will receive updates on your driver’s status and payments receipts, and will be able notify their friends when they called for a ride. As an incentive for Messenger users to order Ubers from within the app, Facebook is offering the first ride free. Facebook (FB) said Wednesday that the Uber feature will be tested with select Messenger users and is restricted to the U.S. for now.
On the payments side, processor Braintree is powering the payment for Uber and Facebook. Braintree, a division of PayPal (PYPL), said it is using tokenization technology for the payments, which means users’ credit card and other financial information is not transferred to either Uber or Facebook.
The social network said that while Uber is a launch partner, it will be adding a number of other transportation options in the future. It remains to be seen whether Uber rival Lyft, which just inked a deal with Chinese sharing giant Kuaidi, will get a placement in Messenger.
The addition of transportation services is one of many enhancements the social network has added to Facebook over the past year. The idea is to add services inside of Messenger so that users won’t have to leave to do things like order an Uber, send money to a friend, or buy a gift. In March, Facebook announced that users will be able to send money through the messaging app, laying the foundation for online commerce. Facebook also added an artificial intelligence-based service to Messenger that completes tasks for users such as purchasing gifts, or booking restaurants and travel.
Facebook is also hoping to connect businesses with consumers within Messenger. In October, the company announced a deal with with Pro.com, a marketplace that connects vetted home services professionals with customers, to let users get an instant quote and book an appointment through its messaging app. Hotel chain Hyatt recently started using Messenger for customer service requests with hotel goers.
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