Bosses at social networking giant Facebook were reportedly planning a move into financial services, sparking "Bank of Facebook" rumors across the Web.
UK newspaper the Financial Times reported Facebook chiefs were seeking regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Ireland, which, if granted, would allow people to store money on the social network, transfer it to other users and pay for goods.
Many experts consider the move to be the first step towards building an international financial institution in the U.S., Europe and the developing nations where Facebook is increasing its market share.
If Facebook gets the green light, initial services are expected to include electronic money and remittances - which would allow shoppers to pay for goods and services and foreign workers to easily and cheaply transfer money back to their families.
The social network has also reportedly approached three London-based startups – TransferWise, Moni Technologies and Azimo – all of which already offer international money transfer via smartphone apps.
While Facebook has not commented on the rumors, a source told the Financial Times, “Facebook wants to become a utility in the developing world and remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion.”
If those in developing nations flock to Facebook, the company would boost its advertising revenues, and e-money services could become a big attraction - it would be particularly useful to users in areas without easy access to banks.
The social network announced last week that it now has more than 100 million users in India, making it the company's largest source of users after the U.S..
Facebook is not the only internet giant dipping its toe into banking.
China’s Tencent and Alibaba are turning their sites into mobile payment platforms in order to offer consumers an alternative to using their credit cards.
Neither Facebook nor the Central Bank of Ireland commented on the Financial Times report.
With additional reporting from Reuters.