Facebook is experimenting with a virtual assistant dubbed "Moneypenny" that will be featured within the Facebook Messenger. Moneypenny will allow users to research and order products and services online.

Details about Moneypenny are scarce but the service will be slightly different than Apple's Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Now. Moneypenny will send queries to real people who will provide answers and suggestions rather than sending a user's queries to a computer for processing.

Rumors suggest that Moneypenny will initially be focusing on research and shopping only but it may expand to other services in the future.

Siri was one of the first intelligent personal assistants that was made available on smartphones. Siri was released in October 2011 in iOS 5 and the iPhone 4s was the first device to come packed with the knowledge navigator.

In June 2012, Apple announced that Siri will be available for the third-generation iPads from late 2012. Siri was welcomed by customers and gurus alike, and the service has now become an integral part of iOS.

Google and Microsoft also followed suite and launched their own intelligent personal assistant in 2012 and 2014. Facebook has a huge user base and the social media website will hope to attract many of its users with Moneypenny.

The Information reports that it received news about Moneypenny from three people who were briefed on the project.

"In the latest sign Facebook is serious about Messenger, the company is testing a personal assistant service," reports The Information. "Lots of questions remain about how it will work, but Facebook's budding interest in the category will draw attention from rivals and other startups."

Facebook is expected to offer Moneypenny on all major smartphone platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows and also for the web. At this point of time it is also unclear if Facebook will charge a fee for any items purchased via Moneypenny.

Facebook has not made any official statement about Moneypenny or about its roll out date. However, the service is rumored to be in testing stage, which means that Moneypenny may be available sooner than later. 

Photo: Karlis Dambrans | Flickr

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