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Facebook's latest brain wave: Flogging REAL fluffy tat

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Facebook has finally realised it needs to start touting actual stuff if it is to ever please Wall Street's moneymen.

The dominant social network is moving into the online retail market, arguably not a moment too soon: its shares have taken a hammering since debuting on the Nasdaq stock exchange in May.

While CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared in the company's initial public offering filing that he wasn't interested in making tons of cash, but instead claimed altruistically he wanted to make the world a better place with his network of possibly nearly a billion people - the reality is, of course, quite different.

Moneybags Zuck has witnessed his personal riches plummet as Facebook's share price bombed. And now it is clear that the company needs new ways to collect revenue to convince nervous investors that the website has staying power, even if Facebook did fail to quickly respond to the nascent smartphone market.

What better way to do that, then to punt tat to Facebook's massive userbase?

Up until now, anyone on the network wishing to, for example, send their loved one a stuffed toy could - at one point, anyway - send a crappy "virtual" version as a gift.

Now the company has a service that allows its users to select real fluffy teddy bears and other goods that they can buy and send as presents. It's partnered up with the likes of Starbucks and other retailers for the initial launch, which kicked off yesterday in the US.

Outside of advertising, from which Facebook trousers billions of dollars in revenue, Zuckerberg's outfit's main source of cash has been via gaming deals with the likes of Zynga. But the gentle shift into e-commerce is an obvious one given just how much Facebook loves to gather information about its users "Likes", lifestyle and interests.

Facebook Gifts works by notifying a user when someone has decided to buy some chocolates or a cupcake for a chum on the network, which means no postal address is needed to be entered by the sender.

Instead Facebook - arguably killing the element of surprise - tells the friend that a gift has been ordered. The recipient can "enter their own shipping info and can swap for a different size, flavour or style before the gift ships", the company explained.

This ultimately means Facebook can get its hands on people's exact home addresses - the one bit of data that up to now had remained completely outside of the network. ®

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