Facebook has just launched Gifts, a new feature that will let you send and receive gifts — real-world products, not animated cattle — with your friends. You don’t need to know where they live or work; Facebook will take care of that for you.
The gifts are high-quality, hand-picked, and appropriate for all kinds of people (or furry friends) and occasions. Example: My friend Dena is as girlie as they come, lives in the San Francisco area, and owns a dog; Facebook recommends I send her chocolates, spa certificates, an Uber ride or doggie treats.
Gifts appear as wrapped surprises on a friend’s Timeline or inbox until they’re opened. The recipient can then select the right size, color, or flavor and enter a shipping address. Gift notifications come with virtual cards, but the gift packaging itself is Facebook-branded, with special paper, wrapping, stickers, and a hard-copy notecard.
Here’s what Facebook Gifts looks like:
It all started when Lee Linden’s 16-person gift-giving startup, Karma, was acquired by Facebook four months ago. Karma basically became Facebook Gifts: Screenshot for screenshot, product for product, almost nothing has changed from the beautiful, thoughtful app Linden originally designed.
“They really share our vision and our mission, but there’s so much more scale here,” said Linden in a meeting on Facebook’s campus today. (Read more about how Gifts could help Facebook’s bottom line.)
In the new interface, Facebook will show big life events — weddings, engagements, births — in the top right corner of the news feed. Gifting options will also be available when you go to write on a friend’s wall.
“We can recommend products we think David or Meredith will like … and sent it as easily as you’d send a photo,” said Linden. Each Gift icon will show six recommendations instantly, all hand-reviewed, carefully curated, and likely to appeal to your friend’s specific tastes.
“We think gifting is really a form of communication,” Linden said. “We think people want to give gifts the moment they think of someone … and it may not always be convenient to pull our your purse or wallet and find your credit card right now.”
For that reason, Facebook will let you send your friend a notification of the gift right away; you can pay for it when it’s ready to be shipped. Credit cards can be stored for future use, just like they already are with Facebook Credits, the company’s virtual currency. Shipping addresses remain private to the recipient and will also be stored for future ease of use.
The gift vendors themselves are more than 100 in number; they range from companies like Starbucks and 1-800-Flowers to artisanal cupcakery Magnolia. Linden says they’re all thrilled to participate; we imagine they’ll see a Timeline Bump from the extra distribution and promotion just as apps have over the past few months.
“We have a team of merchandisers who are going to be looking at products one by one,” said Linden of Facebook’s ongoing curation process for each of the gifts. “Some of our partners have a hundred products, though. … In the coming weeks we’ll get more and more products, but they’ll still be curated.”
And of course, Facebook will keep a percentage of the transaction cost. After all, the company is doing photography, reviews, marketing, promotion, and even some inventory and order-tracking, as well as customer service.
Facebook is launching Gifts right now to a subset of US users. If you receive a gift, you’ll automatically be added to the feature pilot. Gifts is available on desktop, Android, and mobile web; an iOS version is coming in a few weeks and will be part of the next scheduled app update.
We did a deeper dive on why Gifts is great for Facebook as a business; check it out for more insights from Linden.
This article first appeared in VentureBeat, VentureVillage’s editorial partner in the Valley.
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