Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to purchase and send real, physical gifts to each other. 

Facebook is rolling out a new feature which will allow users to purchase and send real, physical gifts to each other. This could be considered a fairly significant upgrade from Facebook's old gift system, which allowed users to send each other virtual hearts/puppies.

(Forgot a birthday?  Facebook will remind you.  Image source: zurmat)

The entire venture will likely prove to be a lucrative one for Facebook, if it gets off the ground. Right now, certain users are already allowed to send gifts to friends by choosing from a list of products and services by Facebook's partners. When gifts are sent off, the sender will have the option of allowing the receiver to find out in a digital message, and even make adjustments to gift specifications, such as color, size, etc.

Whether it really does get off the ground is another story. On the one hand, the art of giving gifts could be significantly simplified by this feature, especially with the number of smartphones which allow quick access to Facebook by applications and browsers. The convenience of being able to give a gift to a specific person without ever touching it is alluring.

But then again, there is stock to think about. What one person considers a good gift doesn't always match the flavors of another. So Facebook will need to have a large number of things to choose from, or else a lesser amount of more generic choices, which could get old quickly.

Another possible problem with the service is the likelihood of people to give out personal information and credit card numbers to Facebook. Of course, it is hardly the case that Facebook will have anything to do with the information, which would get passed to merchants. But it's a matter of trust, and on a site where you and your interests are detailed, it is possible that a number of users would be wary to pass along anything more significant than a cell phone number.

However the service does end up faring, it has the potential to become a significant player on the online merchandising market, and will become moreso if Facebook ends up collaborating with more and more partners and services.

Source: The Washington Post