- Facebook, the social network with 2 billion users, is said to be preparing tests of features that include a "red envelope" service for peer-to-peer payments and a "breaking news" tag for publishers, Recode reported. Red envelopes are traditionally used for gift-giving during holidays like Chinese New Year, but the payment service could be applied to any P2P payments.
- A Facebook spokesperson didn't share details with Recode but also didn't deny the existence of the mobile payment test, which was first discovered on Nov. 3 by The Next Web's Matt Navarra.
- The "breaking news" tag could potentially push articles higher up in users' news feeds or help them stand out visually, Recode said. This might boost the platform's appeal to publishers, which have recently become alarmed by tests of a dual news feed that separates their content from posts shared by users' friends and families in a way that has seriously impacted traffic.
It's too early to tell whether Facebook's breaking news tag and red envelope features will become part of its social networking functionality. The company already offers free P2P payments in its Messenger chat app, but not on its main website or mobile app. Allowing users to make payments in the main app would give them greater flexibility in arranging to pay for products in Facebook's new Marketplace section that acts as a virtual garage sale similar to Craigslist.
Marketplace has helped propel Facebook's stature as a last-click social commerce site, with nearly 48% of social media users in the U.S. reporting they made their most recent purchase from Facebook, according to a recent Open Influence study, putting the platform ahead of Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
Facebook doesn't currently charge a transaction fee for Messenger payments, but integrating a mobile pay feature on its core site could open the door for collecting one as an added revenue stream. Facebook has a greater opportunity to monetize its service with additional revenue streams aside from advertising, including subscription fees for publications, earning a commission on payments and charging users to list products for sale in the Marketplace section.
Facebook's reported test of a new P2P payment feature — as well as recent deals with Visa and PayPal — strongly suggests it's looking to ramp up its mobile payments to provide convenience and keep users from leaving for other sites, ultimately gathering more shopping data. That kind of information could then be used to sell more targeted advertising to brands and retailers.
Meanwhile, mobile P2P payment usage in the U.S. is estimated to grow by double digits through 2021, according to eMarketer. The researcher estimated that 63.5 million U.S. adults will use a P2P payment app at least once a month, which is equal to about one-third of smartphone users.