October 26, 2011, 2:06 PM

Facebook wants Credits to grow up and leave the house

The social network lets other sites process payments with Facebook Credits.

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Facebook Inc. wants to know if Facebook Credits can establish itself as the Internet’s currency.

To test that notion, the social network says that for the first time it will enable web sites to process payments for virtual and digital goods using Facebook Credits. Just as it does on Facebook.com, the social network is taking a 30% cut of Facebook Credit transactions.

One site taking part in the test is RealNetwork’s Gamehouse.com, which sells virtual goods for the game Collapse! Blast. Offering consumers the option to use Facebook Credits to pay makes sense because that's how they're used to paying while playing games on Facebook, says Matt Hulett, Gamehouse.com president. "Facebook is the largest gaming platform in the world," he says. "Millions of those consumers who play games already have Credits balances. So why would you want to require them to pay with a different currency?"

Ensuring consumers have a consistent experience is one of the drivers of Facebook's push. “We've heard from developers that the ability to offer Facebook Credits on their own web sites would help unify their applications on and off Facebook," says a Facebook spokesman. 

Consumers buy 50 Facebook Credits for $5, though consumers receive bonus Credits with bulk purchases. Retailers can also give away Facebook Credits in promotions. For instance, Shoebuy.com last year worked with e-marketing firm Ifeelgoods to give consumers 50 Facebook Credits for each purchase. Shoebuy is No. 87 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

But until now Facebook Credits has exclusively served as a currency consumers can use to buy virtual and digital goods on more than 1,000 games and applications on the social network. While gaming has been the primary driver spurring consumers' use of Facebook Credits, the payment option is available to all developers. "We're excited to see how developers and partners will extend Credits to offer other digital goods like movies," says the spokesman. For instance, consumers can use 30 Facebook Credits to buy 48 hours of access to stream films from movie studios like Miramax Films.

Moving Credits off of Facebook represents part of a broader push by the social network to expand the virtual currency’s usage. The social network in July made Credits the only payment form accepted to process purchases of virtual goods on the social network. And last week it made Credits available as a payment option for mobile app developers.

For now the social network says it does not plan to enable consumers to purchase physical goods using Credits.

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