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Despite the Naysayers, Facebook Relaunches a Gift Program

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

This week, Facebook has decided to bring back Gifts—a concept it shuttered back in August of 2010. The new F-commerce functionality will allow gifts to be tied to Facebook's birthday reminders, so now instead of being pushed to post the obligatory "happy birthday" on someone's Timeline, you'll also be asked to send them a little something special. WWD reports that the initiative shouldn't really shock anyone, as Facebook recently purchased a gift-buying start-up called Karma for $80 million back in May.

Given the lack of enthusiasm surrounding F-commerce, the move comes across as a bit risky. A Nordstrom spokesperson told the paper that their foray into F-commerce wasn't particularly successful: "We explored that and it didn't seem to be a very compelling functionality for the customer." However, Facebook is confident that the Gift application will take off just as well as the site's other key draws, like the ability to waste an entire afternoon playing games and creeping through people's photos.

WWD points out there's some steep competition, though. On Friday, Google launched Google Shopping, replacing the original function of the Google Product Search. The difference here is that users are now only able to search for paid listings, whereas previously with the Product Search they were able to scour paid and free listings. TheFind CEO Siva Kumar lays out what that means for shoppers: "[Consumers] will only see the results from the small group of retailers who are paying to be on Google and will likely miss out on deals and availability from other retailers who are not participating."

So, maybe Google's not that much of a threat after all. But what about Pintrest? Let's check back in with that Nordstrom spokesperson, who made it quite clear to WWD that Pintrest is bring in more bucks than Facebook for the company: "It's our fastest-growing media site because of how visual it is. "We're growing in leaps and bounds through Pinterest."

Oscar de la Renta's CEO, on the other hand, feels that both sites might be able to play nice. After explaining how the brand is working on revving up its social commerce, he said, "I see value in Facebook and other platforms. For a brand like ours, Pinterest and the Fancy have a very visual orientation. Facebook has a massive user base. I don't think you can discount that." However, Sucharita Mulpuru, the vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, still feels that Pintrest has the potential to make more money than Facebook.

She adds, "There are a lot of ways that Facebook can make money. [F-commerce] seems like probably one of the least promising. Everyone knows that nobody visits fan pages after pressing the 'like' button. Social network links drive so little in traffic, let alone revenue."
· The Future of Facebook E-Commerce [WWD]
· Facebook Commerce: Bad for Brands, Good for Boutiques? [Racked]
· As Brands Put More Resources Into Social Media, You Can Expect a Harder Sell [Racked]