WhatsApp has launched a new pilot scheme to allow US customers to send crypto payments within messaging groups.
Crypto payments on WhatsApp will be supported by Novi, Meta’s digital wallet with payments made in Pax Dollars – a stablecoin linked to the price of the US dollar. The news was announced by Novi’s Stephane Kasriel and confirmed by WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart.
In a Tweet Cathcart confirmed the roll out of the crypto payments feature. He said, “people use WhatsApp to coordinate sending money to loved ones, and now Novi will help them do that securely, instantly and with no fees.”
Stephane Kasriel, the incoming chief of Novi, said: “We’re still very early in the Novi pilot journey, so we made the decision to test this new entry point in one country to start and will look to extend it once we’ve heard from people what they think of this new experience.”
It comes as Whatsapp’s parent company Meta leans heavily into the crypto space. The company formerly known as Facebook has been working on an in-house stablecoin called Diem since as far back as 2019.
While the digital Novi wallet, which lets users send and receive money without paying transaction fees, cannot support Diem payments the feature could be added if the coin receives regulatory approval.
Currently, when money is uploaded to the Novi wallet it is immediately converted into digital form as USDP.
When Novi functionality comes to Whatsapp users included in the pilot scheme will be able to make instant payments by adding the currency to messages as if it were an attachment.
Curtis Ting, the managing director for Kraken Europe, said that “while this is only a pilot, it highlights some key benefits crypto offers and will drive widespread adoption of the technology.
“Crypto allows you to seamlessly integrate the ability to transfer value from within virtually any internet application, removing all the potential points of friction that come with using the legacy payment systems,” he continued, noting that instantaneous payment and minimal transaction fees greatly improve user experience.
Crypto commentator and comedian Dominic Frisby said that the implications of “being able to send money as well as messages over a network as big as Whatsapp are simply enormous. Breathtaking, even.”
“This isn’t just huge for the unbanked, it also means the power base of society is undergoing a tectonic shift,” commented Frisby.
The launch of the pilot comes shortly after David Marcus, who was leading Meta’s flagging Diem project, announced he would leave the company at the end of the year. He called the pilot scheme a “small step in the right direction” for the company.
WhatsApp already allows users in India and Brazil to make fiat payments through its messenger app. The upcoming pilot is the first instance of Whatsapp allowing users to make payments in crypto.