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Facebook may soon test a ‘red envelope’ payment feature

Facebook's latest experiment seems to be taking a leaf out of WeChat's book

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’s 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.

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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.

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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.