Facebook Gifts service goes mainstream, now with wine

The Internet makes it easier to buy booze. Now, you can even gift the stuff on Facebook.

The social network Tuesday expanded Facebook Gifts, which it launched in September, from an invite-only service to a public one open to all U.S. members.

Facebook Gifts lets you send physical presents such as gift cards, cupcakes, and music-streaming subscriptions to your friends. Now, you can add wine to that list.

How it works: Facebook alerts you when birthdays, engagements, and other important life events occur in your friends’ lives. The social network then offers you an option to send them a gift to celebrate. You can also find the option to gift on your friends’ profile pages.

The company has partnered with winemakers such as Mondavi, Amuse Bouche, Twisted Oak, and several others to let users gift bottles of wine to their friends. Lest the service be abused by underage Facebookers, the social network said it has put age-verification measures in place, both at point of sale and upon delivery, to ensure that buyers and sellers are over 21. Facebook said it is working with a third party, ShipCompliant, and its wine partners to regulate wine gifts.

Gift sales grow

Facebook is just the latest company to add wine to its offerings. Amazon in November rolled out its Amazon Wine store, shipping to 12 states and Washington D.C. Wine regulations in most states prevent residents from buying alcohol online due to distribution systems that require alcohol be purchased at a store that receives shipments from distributors. Wineries are still largely unable to sell directly to consumers, which could change as online vendors begin disrupting the traditional system.

Facebook has ramped up Gifts in the last few weeks before the holidays. The company after Thanksgiving added iTunes gift cardsto its offerings. Other recently added partners include Baby Gap, L’Occitane, Pandora, NARS Cosmetics, and Hulu. The company also lets you gift charitable donations in your friends’ names.

The holiday tie-in is obvious, as basically all companies with an online presence seek to capitalize on the online buying bonanza this season. But Facebook is also branching out into other revenue streams in the wake of its IPO. The company takes a cut of every transaction, which, depending on how many of its U.S. members use Gifts, could add up.

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