The project would include a digital currency, underpinned by blockchain technology and pegged to the U.S. dollar, which users of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service could use to send money to one another, according to the Journal and a December report by Bloomberg.
The company has been recruiting e-commerce companies and apps to accept the Facebook currency, the Journal said. One idea under consideration is rewarding Facebook users with fractions of the digital currency in exchange for looking at advertisements, the report said. Facebook may also seek to embed its payment system in third-party websites and apps, similar to how third parties use Facebook today.
Facebook is undergoing a major shift to focus on privacy, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has talked at length about how important payments and private commerce will be to its future. Zuckerberg has said that if e-commerce takes off on Facebook's various apps, that could drive brands to spend more on advertisers. The company could also eventually create new revenue streams from financial services if users adopt its payments features.
"Payments and commerce are Facebook's only way out from its freemium, advertisement business model," said Henry Liu, a former Facebook employee and managing partner of YGC, an enterprise blockchain investment firm.