Facebook rolls out 'Buy' button. A challenge to Amazon?

Facebook announced Thursday a new feature it is testing that's designed to let users purchase items directly from ads and posts on the site and in the mobile app. 

Dado Ruvic/Reuters/File
A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo as he poses with a laptop in this photo illustration taken August 14, 2013.

Facebook is testing a new feature designed to let users buy products directly from ads and posts on its newsfeed. 

The announcement came Thursday on the company's 'Facebook for Business' blog, a resource for businesses that use Facebook to market their products. 

"With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the 'Buy' call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook," the post reads. In an image of what this feature looks like, a "Buy" button sits in the bottom right corner of the ads that users normally see as they scroll through their Facebook newsfeeds.  

This feature is currently in its test phase, so it is being used  only for a few small and mid-size businesses in the US. The "Buy" option will be available for specific products on Facebook's site and mobile app starting Thursday. 

Facebook has previously tried to enable purchasing on its site, but with little success, Bloomberg reports. Facebook Credits, for example, was a virtual currency that allowed users to make purchases within games – one US dollar was equal to 10 Facebook Credits. While this feature was disbanded in 2012, it has since been replaced by Facebook Game Cards that let users "buy items" in their "favorite games and apps." 

Still, Facebook said earlier this year that it would avoid a direct purchasing feature on its newsfeed. 

"We don’t have any plans to go into the direct e-commerce market because the advertising products we provide, I think, are the best thing we can provide to help grow this market," Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on a conference call in January, according to Bloomberg.

But Facebook is now feeling pressure to compete with sites like Twitter, which recently released a 'buy now' button that lets users buy items directly from paid-for tweets, and the online mega-giant Amazon, which packs its devices with features that funnel users directly into the Amazon Store, compelling them to make purchases in the moment. 

But the nature of purchasing something with a simple tap on a screen has recently come under scrutiny. A federal lawsuit filed against Amazon last week alleges that the online retailer took in millions of dollars through in-app payments by unsuspecting children. In that case, the Federal Trade Commission is contending that parents were unknowingly billed for charges made by their children while playing games that required actual currency which appeared to be part of the game and seemed no different than the games' play currency. 

To assuage concerns of privacy its more than 1.2 billion users, Facebook says no credit or debit card information users share will be given to advertisers and that people have the choice of whether they want to save their payment information on Facebook for future purchases. 

"We’ve built this feature with privacy in mind, and have taken steps to help make the payment experience safe and secure," the post reads. 

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