Facebook opens online store

This Christmas, Facebook hopes, we’ll all be swapping gifts using a new service allowing users to send pressies to their friends.

With users already sending birthday messages by the million, the idea is to leverage the purchase of gift software Karma earlier this year and start competing with e-commerce sites.

The company’s rolling Facebook Gifts out gradually, starting with a few US cities. So far, it’s only available on Android and the web, although it’s expected to roll out to iOS users in the next few weeks.

“Choose a gift, attach a card and send. You can post your gift to your friend’s timeline or send it privately,” says the company. “Your friend can then unwrap a preview of the gift, and it will show up on their doorstep a few days later.”

You don’t even need to know your friend’s address, as Facebook organizes delivery too. And if recipients don’t like your choice of gift, they can change it for something of equal value.

So far, there’s a rather eclectic range available, including Starbucks vouchers, socks, cupcakes and stuffed animals.

Facebook takes a cut of the value of each gift sent, giving the company another much-needed revenue stream – and one which works just as well on mobile devices.

It also means that the company will be able to harvest millions of real-world addresses – something that will please marketers, if not privacy campaigners.