- Facebook introduces "Gifts" feature to allow users to send real presents
- Starbucks, Gund teddy bears, Magnolia Bakery are among site's first vendors
- Facebook users click to send a notification and the gift ships later
- The feature is rolling out gradually, starting in the U.S.
Bad about forgetting peoples' birthdays until you see them pop up on Facebook?
A new feature on the site will make you look like you were on top of it all along.
Facebook Gifts began rolling out late Thursday in some areas. The feature lets users click a link to send a gift from a list of approved vendors. Starbucks, Gund teddy bears and Magnolia Bakery are among the retailers included at launch.
"Every day, millions of people share special moments with their friends on Facebook by saying 'Happy Birthday,' 'Congratulations,' or simply, 'I'm thinking of you,' " Facebook said in a blog post. "Now there is another way to celebrate those moments."
Facebook is touting Gifts as a way to choose, buy and ship real-world presents in just a couple of moments without ever having to leave the site. The user may choose to keep the gift private or share it with friends and is given the option of paying immediately or when the gift is received.
The recipient gets an immediate notification, along with a digital greeting card and preview of the gift. They reply with the address where they would like the gift delivered and it then ships in a couple of days, Facebook says.
They may also choose the color, size or flavor of the gift, when appropriate, or even exchange it for something else of equal value.
With the feature, Facebook looks to be taking a crack at online retail giants like Amazon, eBay and Buy.com. The scope so far appears limited -- gift options look to be mostly in the $20-$30 range or below. But they give Facebook's 900 million-plus active users a means for one-stop shopping -- while tapping into the "Oh crap, I almost forgot ..." retail market.
The service marks Facebook's first real push into retail. In 2010, the site shut down its "Gift Shop," which let users pay for virtual "goods," such as cocktails, they could send to friends' pages.
It's not mentioned in its post, but Facebook will presumably take a cut of each sale (the same model used by most online retail sites).
Facebook says Gifts will be rolling out "gradually," starting with users in the United States. The service was not available in all U.S. cities Friday.