Facebook is working on its own virtual assistant for Messenger, codenamed “Moneypenny”

A report from news site The Information states that Facebook is testing a virtual assistant for its Messenger service, currently known as Moneypenny. At first sight, it seems like just another competitor in the market currently dominated by Siri, Google Now and Cortana, but Moneypenny is designed to work in a different manner.

The digital assistant named after Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary from the popular James Bond titles will let users ask for help from real people, to research and buy products and services. It’s use is indeed very different from Siri, Cortana and the likes, which actually focus on productivity.

According to the report, Moneypenny is going through an internal testing phase and the name of the virtual assistant might be changed before launch, whenever that may happen. “It’s also unclear what features the service will begin with and how exactly Facebook will fulfill requests,” says The Information (subscription required).

Similar services like Operator and Magic, take a fee on top of the price for the delivered goods, but for now it remains unknown what kind of payment model Facebook is planning to adopt.

Facebook Messenger already includes some shopping functionality (mostly for order updates and similar things) so the new assistant might very well become the first paid service offered by Facebook. Recently, Messenger added support for third-party iOS app integration which lets developers create apps for the service.

It looks like all these previous efforts were small steps, part of a larger plan to prepare the arrival of Moneypenny. While no information of the launch date has been offered, Facebook’s virtual assistant has already made it to the internal testing phase, so it probably won’t take too long before we see it go live.

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