Instagram has quietly added a payments feature which will allow users to book appointments at restaurants and salons.

At the moment the feature is only available for a few companies which have partnered with the social media site, but it may roll out across the world.

Instagram announced the booking ability in March 2017, although it was not described as a native payments feature within the app.

Spotted by news site TechCrunch, Instagram Payments is operated under the same rules as Facebook Payments, which was launched as part of its Messenger app.

Onlookers have thought that Facebook has long sought to replicate the successes of Chinese instant messaging app WeChat's mobile payments system.

Image:Red envelopes often contain monetary gifts in China

WeChat Pay is a popular method for cashless transactions in China and is often used in physical stores as well as online.

Its popularity was driven by red envelopes, which in China typically contain money and are given as gifts on special occasions and holidays.

Digital red envelopes – essentially prize money giveaways – have driven the widespread adoption of WeChat Pay.

These envelopes appear in group chats and the users have to rush to tap the envelope and collect the money before the other people in the chat.

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Last year, self-described "Facebook geek" Matt Navarra noticed the company had even coded a "red envelope" feature into its app, which allowed users to send money to their friends.

Facebook did not launch this feature in the end, but it may be released soon depending on the uptake of Payments on Instagram.

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