Mike Isaac

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Amazon Debuts a Gifting Product on Facebook’s Crowded Platform

amazon gift card $100I’ll admit it — I am terrible at remembering birthdays.

There’s no excuse, really, considering that practically every major Internet company offers some form of calendar with built-in integration to notify you of your friends’ birthdays. (It’s Facebook’s forte.)

E-retailer giant Amazon knows that people like me exist, and wants to make the best of my terrible memory. That’s at least part of the idea behind Amazon Birthday Gift, the company’s Facebook-integrated social gifting product rolling out Tuesday.

The concept is simple: Send a friend whose birthday is coming up one of Amazon’s Birthday Gift cards — a virtual gift-card credit to spend on Amazon.com — which won’t show up for your friend until their actual birthday. Other folks (including the forgetful ones like me) come along, and can contribute their own money toward adding to our friend’s birthday gift amount, thus increasing the size of the pot for your buddy’s special day.

I’ll give Amazon this — it’s lightweight, and certainly clever. Tap into Facebook’s existing social graph birthday calendar, and Amazon becomes constantly available as a gifting option, a way to divert dollars over to its massive online retail platform.

But Amazon’s Birthday Gift product is far from alone on Facebook. There’s Wrapp, to begin with, the social gifting application that lets you and many other contributors give gift cards to friends, working in much the same way as Amazon’s new product.

wrapp_giftThat’s not to mention Gifts, Facebook’s homegrown social gifting product, birthed out of the company’s acquisition of startup Karma last year. With Facebook Gifts, you’re readily prompted to buy stuff for friends via Facebook itself, choosing from a growing list of physical, virtual and digital gifts.

So, yes, Amazon is vying for gifting attention on Facebook.

But despite being on Facebook’s turf, Amazon is strong here. The commerce giant’s gift cards offer recipients credit toward hundreds of thousands of items on Amazon.com — a veritable playground of stuff — which means that the birthday boy or girl isn’t limited to just what Facebook Gifts or Wrapp’s gift cards offer. In Facebook’s case, the gift selection is still relatively small, and Wrapp is still working hard to grow its partnership roster. That’s a strong pitch for gift-givers to use Amazon’s service instead.

Now the question is, Amazon or no, do people actually feel comfortable sending birthday gifts via a Facebook page?

Perhaps — if it’ll help them remember to send it in the first place.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald