In the interests of driving more business to its behemoth social networking site, Facebook is following the lead of small startups like Pinterest and Fancy in testing a tool that would let Facebook members buy products online.
In the Facebook test, users can click on any of three buttons when looking at a company's "collection" of products on Facebook: Want, Like and Collect. If you decide to click on the button, that information will show up on your Timeline so that it can be seen by your Facebook friends. The tool also offers the capability to let users click through to retailers' Web sites and purchase items from the collections there.
So far, reaction by Facebook users seems muted, in vivid contrast to the public outcry that's erupted over some earlier additions to Facebook, such as Live Ticker, a feature for giving you a realtime ticker of your friends' activities.
Maybe that's partly because the "collections" test is only being done with a few retailers, such as Neiman Marcus, Pottery Barn, Michael Kors, Wayfair, Smith Optics, Victoria's Secret, and Fab.com.
In any case, Facebook users have the ability to delete items from their Timelines if there are things they don't want to share.
Following the Lead of Pinterest and Fancy?
As many observers see it, Facebook is now trying to cash in on a growing niche first created by Pinterest, a pinboarding site where users create online wishlists and bookmark products they want to buy.
Brands using Pinterest have included Gap, Lowe's Whole Foods, Blockbuster, Pillsbury, and Toms, to name only a few.
Pinterest, however, isn't alone in that general space. Fancy, for example, combines bookmarking and collecting with a blog, magazine, and online store where users are able to buy products direcly from Fancy, without going to partners' Web sites.
About 60 percent of Fancy users are males, whereas 80 percent of Pinterest users are females.
Sometimes, Pinterest is also mentioned in the same breath as Instagram, since both of these companies got their starts in image sharing. Interestingly, Facebook acquired Instragram -- the makers of a mobile app for photo sharing -- last July for $1 billion. Earlier on, the founders of Instagram had run a location-based social network known as Burbn.
Meanwhile, prior to establishing Pinterest in December 2009, the founders of that company produced a mobile shopping app called Tote.
Users who go to sites like Pinterest and Fancy, though, do so specifically because they want to be able to bookmark, share, and purchase products online. It remains to be seen how many users will want to do the same on Facebook.
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