Facebook Ending Gift Feature as Social Network Tests Buy Button

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Facebook Inc. is ending a service that lets friends send digital gift cards to each other, as the social-networking service revamps how users can buy goods and services.

The website will no longer prompt members to send gift cards for stores such as Starbucks Corp. and Apple Inc.’s iTunes to friends on their birthdays as of Aug. 12, Facebook said yesterday. Facebook Gifts debuted in September 2012, and the company narrowed the offering to just digital gift cards a year ago.

Facebook, which has 1.32 billion users, has already been working on new online commerce features, such as a trial “buy” button on browsers and mobile devices that lets users make purchases through advertisements. Twitter Inc. is also looking at ways to enable purchases, and introduced a joint service with Amazon.com Inc. last month that lets members shop by hashtag. Facebook said it’s aiming to help business partners secure sales, rather than selling products directly.

“We’ll be using everything we learned from Gifts to explore new ways to help businesses and developers drive sales on the web, on mobile, and directly on Facebook,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last week that e-commerce is a growing part of the company’s business.

“The more people buy online, the more people buy things they discovered through their mobile phones, the more people discover things from a News Feed and go on to purchase, the more important we are in driving e-commerce,” Sandberg said in a call with investors.

Facebook’s new buy button service is being tested in the U.S. with a few small and medium-sized businesses. Users’ credit- or debit-card information won’t be shared with other advertisers, the Menlo Park, California-based company said.

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