Facebook Inc unveiled a new group to pursue payments and commerce opportunities and put David Marcus, co-creator of its Libra cryptocurrency project, in charge of the initiative.
Called F2 internally, short for Facebook Financial, the team will run all payments projects, including Facebook Pay, the company’s universal payments feature that it plans to build inside all of its apps.
Marcus will continue running Novi, the division that is building a digital wallet to hold the Libra cryptocurrency. He will also be involved in WhatsApp’s payments efforts in countries like India and Brazil. Facebook has hired former Upwork Inc Chief executive officer Stephane Kasriel to serve as a payments vice president under Marcus.
This is the latest step in a companywide effort to bring Facebook’s individual products and apps closer together. In the past two years, it re-branded Instagram and WhatsApp so people know they are owned by Facebook, and CEO Mark Zukerberg announced plans to integrate all the company’s messaging services.
“We have a lot of commerce stuff going on across Facebook,” Marcus said. “It felt like it was the right thing to do to rationalise the strategy at a company level around all things payments.”
The belief is that if users can make purchases on Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, then Facebook’s advertising will grow more valuable, and users will spend more time inside the company’s apps. On Facebook’s second-quarter earnings call last month, Zukerberg said he was “quite excited” about commerce inside of messaging apps. “As payments grow across Messenger and WhatsApp, and as we’re able to roll that out in more places, I think that that will only grow as a trend,” he added.
Marcus is a payments veteran, and a trusted executive inside the company. He joined Facebook in 2014 from his role as president of PayPal Holdings Inc, and ran Facebook Messenger for four years before taking on Libra.
One priority will be getting payments running inside WhatsApp in India and Brazil. The company has invested heavily to make WhatsApp a destination for commerce in those markets, but regulation has stalled its payments efforts in both countries.
Marcus was most recently working to get Libra off the ground as a cryptocurrency for cross border payments. That required negotiations with regulators, and the experience could help with Facebook’s other payments initiatives.
“It’s helpful to have specific expertise in financial services regulation to build things the right way from the get-go,” he said. “In the financial services world, it’s very different than traditional technology companies that are not regulated.”
Meanwhile, Facebook Inc was told by the UK’s antitrust regulator to take action to ensure the Giphy unit it bought earlier this year can still be run independently.
Facebook had to pause its integration with Giphy in June after the UK’s Competition and Market Authority said it wanted to investigate whether the deal would give the internet giant too much information on its rivals’ operations, according to a filing on the authority’s website yesterday.
The CMA is now asking the companies to appoint a “formal hold separate manager” to ensure Giphy can still operate as a standalone business.
The CMA is increasingly putting itself in the middle of all-American deals, after eventually approving Google’s takeover of Looker Data Sciences Inc in February. It also cleared Amazon.com Inc’s minority investment in Deliveroo last week after a lengthy investigation.
Facebook declined to comment on the UK authority’s statement.
Facebook paid about $400mn for the library of video clips and animated images known as GIFs that can be attached to messages to express emotion. While half of Giphy’s business involved Facebook and its apps, the company also provided the same search service to competitors such as Apple Inc’s iMessage, Twitter Inc, Signal, and TikTok.
The CMA said there is “a general lack of independence of the Giphy business from Facebook” due to certain clauses in Facebook employment contracts that Giphy employees were transferred to. It also said members of Giphy’s senior management team have left the business and Giphy employees have received restricted stock units in Facebook.
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