Facebook expands Gifts service

Facebook’s made a big expansion to its Gifts service, teaming up with retailers and service providers from babyGap to ProFlowers.

Users can also give subscriptions to services such as Hulu Plus, Pandora, Rdio and others. And wine will also soon be on the menu, from Robert Mondavi Winery and Chandon. These vendors join more than 100 already on Facebook’s books.

The reason for the timing of this expansion is obvious, with the company hoping to capitalize on the Christmas market. Facebook initially launched the service in September, with a limited number of partners. It’s currently available only in the US.

When a user chooses a gift, the recipient is notified immediately, making it easier to get away with buying presents at the last minute. And recipients can make changes to the size, color or style of the gift, which will no doubt make the service popular with hard-to-please teenagers, for example.

And the advantages for Facebook are even more obvious. It takes only a small cut of the value of the gift in most cases – but that could increase as the service takes off, and in any case it isn’t really the point.

Most notably, Facebook Gifts is a way for the company to bring in revenue that doesn’t derive directly from advertising. It could also be a boost for the company’s mobile ambitions, as it’s the sort of service that’s just as efficient on a phone.

But, perhaps even more crucially, Facebook Gifts also gives the company a treasure trove of information about what its users actually want and are prepared to buy online: all very useful for – you guessed it – more advertising…