Remember when Facebook was a world-changing social network–uniting families, friends, and that girl who moved away in the third grade across space and time? And then remember when Facebook was a punchline, trying to get you to pay real money for the virtual equivalent of the flair buttons on a TGIFriday’s vest?
Well, now, Facebook is also partly an e-commerce play–like say Amazon or Pets.com. Today, the company began launching a new segment called Gifts, which allows users to buy and send real-world items, tied to the life events you post on Facebook. It’s a gentle reminder that when free consumer web startups say, “Don’t worry about monetization, we’ll find a magical third way later,” what they mean is: “Let us pretend just a little while longer, please.”
In nice surprise, however, the gift selection is stuff you might actually want to send and receive, including cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and glasses from Warby Parker. The team behind Karma, the social gifting app Facebook acquired last May, were responsible for developing Gifts. And they built it with smartphones in mind, which could prop up Facebook’s weakness in mobile advertising.
As the New York Times notes:
“Facebook already reminds users when it’s time to send birthday greetings to their Facebook friends. It will now enable them to send a gift along with a greeting. Gift-givers can pay with a credit card. Recipients will have to offer up their offline addresses so a gift can be delivered. The tool will roll out incrementally, starting Thursday, initially in the United States.”
Finally, those perfunctory, blasé birthday wishes on your wall will come with an actual treat. Now you just have to ask yourself: Do you trust Zuck with your home address?