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Facebook Launches Marketplace to Let You Buy and Sell Books and Stuff

facebook-marketplaceAfter years of failing to turn its social network into a retail powerhouse which could threaten Amazon, Facebook has launched a Craigslist competitor: Marketplace.

The Verge and other sites are reporting that Facebook Marketplace has rolled out to a limited number of users:

Facebook is getting more deeply involved in e-commerce with the launch of Marketplace, its new user-to-user exchange for buying and selling goods with others in your community. The company says Marketplace — which launches this week in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand — is an evolution of an existing behavior on the social network. Up to 450 million people already use Facebook to buy and sell used goods every month, mainly through its groups feature, according to project manager Bowen Pan. With Marketplace, Facebook is now giving users a more formal process to conduct these exchanges.

The icon for Marketplace should over the next few days replace the Messenger icon in the center of the bottom row on Facebook’s mobile app. Tapping it takes you to an algorithmically-generated home page of items Facebook believes you’d be interested in. This is based on the pages you’ve liked and, after some time, any of your viewing, buying, or selling activity within Marketplace. You can message the seller of any item and also place an offer of your choosing. To sell an item, you simply upload a photo, set a name, description, and price, and confirm your location.

This is bound to have a better chance at succeeding than Facebook’s retail plans; people go on FB to interact with other people, and sometimes that includes buying stuff.

But will it help Facebook’s bottom line?

The Verge describes Marketplace as "fertile ground for Facebook", but it’s also a niche which is already dominated by high-profile competitors who offer free listings. There’s no way for FB to directly profit of a listing, but of course they can always track a user’s browsing and use that to target ads.

And FB Marketplace does have one advantage over Craigslist: the serendipity of finding something you didn’t know you were looking for.

"We saw a lot of people were really just looking at coming to Marketplace without necessarily anything in particular they were looking for," Marketplace project manager Bowen Pan told The Verge. "They were just on Marketplace to casually browse through. This really mirrors an offline experience where you can go to a Sunday market or maybe the mall. You don’t know exactly what you want but you want to browse."

But with the assistance of Facebook’s tracking cookies, you’re bound to find something interesting.

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