Facebook and Target announced a partnership together whereby Target will be the first bricks and mortar retail store to sell Facebook Credits gift cards. The cards will be available for sale September 5 and will be available in $15, $25, and $50 increments.
By itself, this is not huge news (in fact, many of you may be noticing, slow news week). Zynga has been doing this for years. But in the big picture, however, it’s quite large.
Up until now, Facebook has focused on controlling the virtual economy via Facebook Credits online only. This is the first time moving Credits into the offline world.
It has been speculated that Facebook’s goal with Credits is not just to enable users to buy and purchase items with its own currency. It is to actually create it’s own micro-economy.
If Facebook can coerce its app partners to use Facebook Credits (mission accomplished), get huge web sites such as Amazon.com or Yahoo! to use Credits as a standard payment (we must assume Credits is next in line to be part of Facebook Connect API) and then make Credits as ubiquitous as the US Dollar or the Euro in both the online and offline world, they will have transformed themselves into a virtual version of the US Federal Reserve.
With 500 million unique users per month globally, Facebook is already one of the largest countries in the world. With Facebook Credits as a standard payment currency, they would be one of the largest economic powers as well.
It is scary but not too far-fetched. Selling gift cards at Target does not make Facebook into a global economic power, but looking back, it may be one of many small steps they take on that path.