Facebook uses Karma acquisition to create “Gifts” feature

Facebook has rolled out a new feature called Gifts, allowing users to send each other real-life presents, believed to be the direct result of its acquisition of mCommerce start-up Karma.


Facebook Gifts launched earlier this week to a subset of users in the United States, and will roll out to more users over the coming months.


According to Facebook, the feature will enable users to “celebrate birthdays, new jobs and other big moments”.


Facebook Gifts is broken down into three steps. Firstly, the user clicks on a “Gifts” icon on their Facebook friends’ pages, either on the Facebook website or on Android mobile phones.


iPhone and iPad versions are expected to be released soon.


By clicking the icon, the user will be able to view a range of presents available for purchase. All they need to do is select one and add a personal message.


The gift is then ready to be shipped, with no address needed, and the recipient will be notified instantly.


In addition to entering their shipping information, the recipient can swap the item for a different size, flavour or style before it is shipped.


The gift is then delivered to their door. For every item sold, Facebook will take an unspecified cut, representing the company’s first real foray into eCommerce.


It’s understood Facebook Gifts is the result of Facebook’s acquisition of US-based mobile commerce start-up Karma, purchased the day after Facebook’s ill-fated IPO.


Founded by Lee Linden and Ben Lewis, the Karma app allows users to browse through a virtual storefront. Karma has partnered with providers such as Spotify, so the gift range is impressive.


Once the user has found a gift, they can create a virtual card and send the gift to the recipient via text, email or a message on their Facebook wall.


Once the recipient has chosen to accept the gift, they provide Karma with a shipping address. Alternatively, the recipient can trade the gift for something else in the Karma store.


The app’s Facebook integration is a key part of its appeal. Karma reads through messages on users’ Facebook walls and alerts them to specific events where they might want to send a gift.


At the time of the deal, Linden and Lewis said the Karma service would continue to operate “in full force”, insisting “only goods things will follow”.


Linden is now head product manager for Facebook Gifts, which, according to him, incorporates “the heart and soul of the Karma experience”.


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