Remember that goofy “gift shop” Facebook introduced in 2007, which allowed users to pay real money for tiny virtual icons of pizza slices and toilet paper? The social networking giant shut down that initiative in 2010, only to add a new service called Gifts late last year. This revamped store enables users to buy physical presents for their friends via Facebook — and starting today, the site’s members can also purchase renewable gift cards for use at retailers including Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Target.
Once a user buys a card, the gift’s recipient will be notified immediately; shortly thereafter, a physical gift card (bearing Facebook’s logo) will arrive in the mail. The coolest part of this initiative is that each card can hold multiple gift balances for different stores or restauraunts; users can see their gift balances on Facebook itself, under their account settings. Those balances are updated in real time as amounts are added or spent.
While it’s still a little creepy to watch Facebook try to conquer every aspect of how people spend their time online — from posting photos to sending out event invitations to instant messaging to online shopping — the cards do seem like they’d be useful, especially as more retailers sign on as partners in the service. Would you buy one?