Facebook today officially launches Facebook Gifts in a limited test for U.S. users to buy products for their friends through the social network’s desktop or mobile versions.
Gifts seems to follow the format used by Karma, a mobile gift-giving service that Facebook acquired in May. As with Karma, users can send their friends gifts without knowing their address. After a user chooses a gift, the recipient is notified and he or she can indicate where the gift should be sent. The recipient also has the option to swap the gift for another of equal or lesser value.
The difference between Facebook Gifts and Karma, which is still available as a standalone app for iOS, is that Facebook Gifts has a desktop component. Users can send gifts directly from birthday reminders or from friends’ timelines. They can post a preview of the gift on a friend’s timeline or send it privately.
Facebook says it has hundreds of gifts available with more being added every day. Some early partners include Magnolia Bakery, Starbucks, Uber, Warby Parker and Rovio, among about 100 others. Users can buy flowers, food items, fashion accessories, baby products, magazines, household items, toys, trinkets and more. Facebook Gifts is rolling out gradually to U.S. users on desktop and Android, but the company hasn’t discussed any plans to expand internationally. An iOS app will be available in the next few weeks.
Last week when we discovered a Facebook job listing looking for someone with a number of responsibilities related to on-boarding new merchants, managing assets and inventory for a “Facebook Gifts product,” it became clear that the company had new plans to get back into commerce. Facebook had a gift shop from 2007 to 2010, which mostly offered virtual gifts that users share on each other’s walls, however the company experimented with physical goods in 2009.
With the new Facebook Gifts, the social network takes a percentage of sales — varying by partner or item — and in exchange helps promote the goods, photographing the products, writing copy and displaying them on site. Facebook also provides merchants with packaging materials and helps with tracking shipping and customer service. Merchants interested in selling products through Facebook Gifts can contact the company here.
More information for users is available from Help Center.