Facebook is launching a new user-to-user e-commerce service called "Marketplace" this week in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand (via The Verge). The new buying and selling service will replace the Messenger tab in the main Facebook mobile app for iOS and Android.
According to Facebook Marketplace project manager Bowen Pan, almost 450 million people use the social network's various other services, like group messaging, to buy and sell items already, so "with Marketplace, Facebook is now giving users a more formal process to conduct these exchanges."
When users tap on the new Marketplace icon, Facebook will use an algorithm to present each user with items it believes they will be interested in. This data is accumulated based on previously liked pages, and will even factor in a user's viewing, purchasing, and selling history on Marketplace after they've used the service for a while.
When an item is discovered, users can send the seller a message, or place an offer on it to see if the seller accepts. When users want to unload something of their own, the process will include taking a photo of the item, naming and describing it, setting a sell price, and confirming a current location. The company said search queries can be set to nearby (for person-to-person exchanges), or wider to other cities with the option to ship the item.
"We saw a lot of people were really just looking at coming to Marketplace without necessarily anything in particular they were looking for," Pan says. "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." In that sense, Marketplace feels like a hybrid between eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon.
The company said it "does not plan" to charge users fees for using Marketplace when selling items, and Pan said that a desktop version is coming but the company's focus is getting the service right on mobile as of now. On the safety and privacy side of things, Marketplace will continue Facebook's rules against selling drugs, explosives, animals, firearms, and alcohol, but in terms of specific financial security, "Facebook does not have the same kinds of protections or guarantees as, say, eBay," according to The Verge.
"We have built the tools to allow our community to report on any items that may violate our policies," Pan says. "It has well as a whole host of flags that people that can put out for people that may not be acting in the best faith. Once we see a flag, we have a team that will promptly review these and take action." Still, Facebook won’t take responsibility if you get ripped off, and it certainly will not get involved if someone decides to assault you and steal your item at the designated meeting place.
The company thinks that because users will be conducting these transactions under their real identities, it will prevent potential scams that other services might face because of their anonymity. "People on Facebook represent their real selves," Pan said. "We think knowing who you’re transacting with is very important." Facebook said the Marketplace tab will start showing up on the mobile app "over the next few days."