Facebook rolls out 2-step payments flow for mobile web apps

Facebook today begins rolling out a new mobile payments flow that brings the number of steps down from seven to two, the company said in a blog post.

The new carrier billing option, announced in February, is now live for the U.S. and the U.K., but will be available worldwide soon. Mobile app developers will be able to charge their players’ monthly phone bills in only two steps and without requiring users to type anything. Having a fluid payments flow could encourage developers to focus more attention on HTML5 applications than they have in the past.

Mobile web developers who already integrate Facebook payments don’t need to make any changes to their apps. Those who want to use Credits on their mobile website can use Facebook’s Payments API. Developers can see an example of the payments flow in Gamzee’s Skyscraper City.

Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Orange, O2 and Three will support mobile payments for users in the U.S. and the U.K. A list of participating carriers by country is available here. Though it’s hard to be sure exactly what percentage of its revenue share Facebook is giving up to facilitate the new payment option, the company could be losing a substantial portion of its 30 percent cut. Earlier this year Ray Anderson, the chief executive of carrier billing company and Facebook service partner Bango, revealed carriers often provide large company like Facebook with much more favorable carrier billing terms than smaller players receive. However, even with some carriers now remitting 90 percent of carrier billing revenue, by the time Facebook pays the carrier and any third-party payment processers, it could be losing up to half its share. We suspect the company is willing to make the sacrifice to bolster HTML5 applications and work around the barriers Apple and Google have set up to prevent Facebook from monetizing native apps that integrate its platform.

The social network is also beginning to monetize its own mobile app with advertising. On Tuesday the company announced that advertisers can now choose to run mobile-only ads, which introduces new opportunities for app developers to acquire users with Sponsored Stories.