Facebook just added a new feature to its mobile app known as Marketplace where users can buy and sell things. For now, only Facebook users in the US, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia would be able to utilize the feature.
Already people are comparing it to Craigslist with a little bit of Amazon and eBay. Incidentally, I was on Craigslist for a few hours two days ago. There are just two similarity between Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace I could see: both of them are online based firms and people exchange good and services on both sides.
In that respect, Marketplace is similar to a lot of e-commerce websites out there.
As the feature is been rolled out to users in these four countries, users would begin to notice that the icon that used to launch Facebook Messenger app would disappear to be replaced by the Marketplace icon.
This a sign that Marketplace is one new feature that Facebook intends to take seriously; not just a passing whim or just a test feature that would be discarded later if it doesn’t gain any traction among users.
According to Facebook, buying and selling things through Facebook is something that was already taking place by about 500 million Facebook users. So introducing the feature was just to help them have a better platform and to help others who who want to buy and sell on Facebook.
That is true. Facebook has evolved from the simple forum where friends exchange information to a complex forum where almost all activities under the sun take place.
I see numerous Facebook pages and groups created solely to sell stuff to Facebook users. And many of these pages are doing thriving business on Facebook without paying Facebook a dime.
Marketplace wasn’t created so that Facebook can now start collecting money from people transacting business through Facebook though. Ads already take care of that.
What is important to Facebook is that Marketplace, if everything goes according to plan, would attract more users to Facebook. And more people spending more time on Facebook invariably means more ads revenue for Facebook. So it is a win-win situation for users who transact business through Facebook, ads companies and Facebook.
Unlike Amazon and eBay, Facebook Marketplace would not act like an escrow service. There is no payment system in place where users can deposit money to be released by Facebook to the seller. Payment is strictly offline.
Facebook Marketplace works best between family and friends in one’s Facebook list. And since the payment method is done outside of the feature, it is more likely that people would transact business with people they know. Like a localized kind of market. I guess this is where the Craigslist comparison comes in.
However, one can also use the search feature in Marketplace to look for items been sold by others nearby. Not necessarily friends. And the search can be expanded to look for similar items in far off places that might interest the buyer.
What you see in Marketplace the first time you click on the icon is determined by your activity on Facebook. The pages you like, the ads you click, and other activities you do on Facebook would be used by the system to determine the items you might like to buy.
I won’t be surprise if Facebook super cookies also use your general browsing habits online to generate the items you’d see in Marketplace.
One advantage of doing business with Facebook friends or contacts in your area is that is would reduce incidences of fraud by strangers. At least, if one is defrauded, they would know where to go and look for the fraudster.
At least, that is how Facebook thinks fraud can be checked in Marketplace.
However like everything online, the evolution of Marketplace can never be accurately predicted. The basics might remain unchanged over time, but how it works can become very complicated.
Just like Facebook evolved from a simple app to something that is used for almost every online activity. No matter how smart Mark Zuckerberg is, be never envisioned Facebook the way it is today.
It is safe to say the Marketplace team don’t know how the feature would be like in the future when the over a billion users of Facebook begin to visit Marketplace daily.
image credit: newsroom.fb.com; adweek.com