Will payments give Snapchat the next block of a mobile platform?

Today Snapchat rolled out a pay-your-friends feature called Snapcash, powered by Square. After users turn the option on, they can eve the ephemeral text chatting feature of the app, type in the dollar amount they want to send to a friend, and the app will transfer it.

This is Snapchat’s first big experiment with becoming a full-fledged messaging platform, much like China’s WeChat or Korea’s KakaoTalk. These apps attracted their users with messaging first, and then introduced other features like e-commerce shopping, games, banking, celebrity communication, and brand promotions.

A fledgling peer-to-peer payment system like this is a test for Snapchat. It not only will help it to develop a payments process, it will also allow it to gage consumer comfort with sending money through the app. That’s a fundamental building block for other features, from product sales to gaming to banking, that Snapchat could want to implement in the future.

It’s unlikely Snapchat is worth $10 billion based on its current messaging and advertising power alone. I suspect the company is spinning the platform plan to potential investors, hoping it can become a mobile messaging power house like WeChat, but for Americans.

There’s one problem: Snapchat might have the user numbers and the engagement, but it doesn’t quite have the product. Disappearing pictures don’t lend themselves as well to things like banking and e-commerce as text-based messages. The big question with Snapchat is whether it can repurpose its application into a platform for other, less ephemeral activities. Will users trust it?