Fans of WeChat’s hongbao
(red packet) application may soon also
be able to dole out virtual cash envelopes on Facebook. First
spotted by publication The Next Web
director of social media Matt Navarra, Facebook appears to be at the early
stages of experimenting with a handful of new applications, including a ‘red envelope’
feature for users to send each other money via Facebook and a ‘breaking news’
tag which publications can attach to their posts.
At this stage, these new features aren’t officially being
tested yet, with Facebook only confirming to online publication Recode that the ‘breaking news’ tag is
for a ‘future test’ while also avoiding any comment on the ‘red envelope’
feature. However, the ability for users to gift each other money via Facebook is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Users are already able to send and
receive money from friends on Messenger, while Facebook’s Marketplace application
(similar to Craigslist or Gumtree) encourages people to sell items by
advertising and linking them to their Facebook profiles. Supporting a payment function
for these purchases to be processed through Facebook rather than a third-party
site would be a logical next step.
For messaging juggernaut WeChat, red packets make up a significant
portion of WeChat Pay’s market share. During New Year’s Day (January 1) in
2016, WeChat users sent each other over 2.3 billion red packets, with that
number jumping to an astronomical 46 billion during this year’s Lunar New Year.
However, with the sheer number of new features Facebook is experimenting with
at any one time, there’s no guarantee that red packets will ever actually be
rolled out. And for us here in China, there's still that pesky VPN problem to contend with.