The joke has turned into reality.
Alipay, China’s largest mobile payment platform, is rolling out the “Alipay Everywhere” function that allows users to ask strangers to do anything for a fee, Alipay’s official Weibo account posted Thursday.
Alibaba released an April Fool’s prank video that introduced similar features last year.
The video shows a fictional scenario in which by using “Alipay Everywhere,” users could ask strangers around to deliver toilet paper, lend them coins when playing claw machines, and even help to fix computers.
Those functions people once joked about are now appearing on the mobile app, with location pins being spread out on a map with each pin representing a specific service that a nearby person can provide.
Touting “April Fool’s ‘Alipay Everywhere’ is finally here!” in the latest version of the app, Alipay allows users to narrow down their search by choosing their intended service in categories like “repair” or “education,” and send out requests to the service provider within their area.
Buyers and providers can chat before they make the deal, and protect their own privacy without disclosing phone numbers when calling each other.
Why is Alipay doing this?
It is not hard for Ant Financial, the company behind Alipay, to develop and facilitate “Alipay Everywhere,” given its powerful database of 100 million users, Quartz pointed out.
But such a minor move could help Alipay spur social networks among strangers within the app, since it has been struggling to encourage users to interact with friends while doing transactions, noted by TMTpost, one of China’s leading business technology blogs.
To encourage users to explore “Alipay Everywhere,” Alipay even launched a campaign to reward the first 10,000 service providers with “privileged status” so that their services will be displayed prior to those of ordinary users.
Making every user a mobile ATM, maximizing users’ ability to run errands and offer help represents the goals that “Alipay Everwhere” hopes to achieve. However, it may not be effective everywhere, TMTpost pointed out.
The function is currently only available to users in Shanghai, China, while Ant Financial claimed the service would be extended to more places in the country.