Facebook is understood to be close to introducing a financial aspect to the social network as they draw nearer to gaining Irish regulatory approval for a new service which would give Facebook users the ability to spend and store money on the popular website, according to a report in today's Irish Times.

Approval from the Central Bank would allow Facebook to become an 'e-money' vendor, allowing the company to "issue units of stored monetary value that represent a claim against the company", using a method called 'passporting'. The currency would be valid throughout all of Europe.

Irish approval for Facebook's latest venture would further tie the multinational company down to its Dublin-based EU Headquarters in the South Docklands. Facebook - which was set up by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 - employs around 500 members of staff in its Dublin operation and has recently upgraded its offices with a significant expansion.

The e-money concept would signal a significant about-turn for Facebook's European affiars who have traditionally generated the majority of their income via paid advertisements. The recent notoriety surrounding Bitcoin, as well as the more standards money transfer tools like PayPal, have shown that there is significant room for manoeuvre as people's economic habits drift further from the high street bank towards the online realm.

Facebook already operates a similar service in the United States, for app development payments, which last year processed $2.1 billion worth of transactions yielding a fee of up to 30% commission which added up to about 10% of total revenue.

As you might expect, Google has already made inroads into a money transfer service with their 'Wallet' function, which has yet to be widely accepted by its users.