Friday, June 5, 2009

Facebook to introduce Payment Gateway

I was searching for news about Facebook as we as I had read that it had sold about 1.5% to a Russian Company (Digital Sky Technologies) for $200m so as to raise more finances. I came across an article that is very interesting. Facebook has begun tapping a new revenue stream as it seeks to introduce an internal payment system. This will enable it to reduce it's reliance on advertising and to start earning commissions on payments. This has been long awaited and it will enable Facebook users to be able to buy credits that can then be used to buy virtual goods from third party applications running on Facebook.

This revenue structure mimics that of Second Life where developers can start developing virtual items that can then be bought by users to customise their Facebook experience. Second Life was a success as hardcore users where buying property and furnishings to create a virtual life. An example of the potential of Facebook is Zynga, the largest applications developer on Facebook, with 42m users using their games. It is believed that they make nearing $100m in annual sales. Together, developers working on Facebook’s platform are expected to make more than $500m this year perhaps even more than Facebook itself.

Facebook hopes that by offering a site-wide currency it will encourage more commerce on the website. By serving as the payment provider, it will capture a percentage of every transaction. The payment portal will serve the same purpose as PayPal is for Ebay Inc. The percentage profit is small but over time, this will be very significant.

Social Networking sites and now even the mini blog site, Twitter, are suffering from a real problem...they have a huge following but they cannot find a proper revenue generation method. This will give them more possibility as a specialised payment gateway exists to help them monetise on their services.

Could this be the end of an all free service? Social Networking sites need to be really careful with this as they depend on a large userbase and if these sites become too focused on revenue generation they may alienate their user. The right balance needs to be struck.

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