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Facebook updates Messenger app's payments feature

The world's largest social network says it's making it simpler to send money through its messaging service.

Facebook says it's now even simpler to send cash to friends via its Messenger app. Facebook

Facebook says it has made it even easier for friends to send money to each other through its Messenger app.

The world's largest social-networking service announced Wednesday it is updating the app's peer-to-peer payments feature first introduced in March. Previously, Facebook friends who used debit cards could activate the feature by tapping a dollar sign while chatting in the Messenger communications app.

Now, dollar amounts are automatically hyperlinked after the sender taps the dollar sign and will start a payment for the amount to the person receiving the funds. The sender can confirm the payment before sending. This function is similar to how addresses, website URLs and phone numbers are automatically hyperlinked in Messenger, Facebook said.

Another updated feature enables someone in a group conversation to pay another person in the group without having to leave the conversation, the company said. The Messenger payments feature was rolled out in select cities across the US, including Seattle, Portland and Austin, Texas, and is now expanding to the New York City metro area.

Mobile payments are fast becoming a big trend in Silicon Valley. Messenger's new payment feature also could help Facebook ward off a growing list of competitors including PayPal's Venmo and Snapchat's service with Square called Snapcash. About 600 million people currently use Messenger, nearly half of the 1.4 billion users Facebook says log into its service.

The changes in Messenger are part of Facebook's strategy to make the app the go-to service for all kinds of communication ranging from sending money between friends to dialing customer support. Last month, Facebook introduced a video calling feature in Messenger to allow users to chat face-to-face over Wi-Fi or cellular networks by simply tapping a video camera icon.