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Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) rolled out a business-friendly interactive tool for its massive user base on Monday with the launch of a "want" button.
But, what Facebook will get from the "want" button is unclear.
Still in the testing mode, the new feature allows Facebook members to create "wish lists" of desired items ranging from home furnishings to clothing to books to a bevy of other retail products. It's kind of like a Christmas list or bridal registry.
Called Collections, it works by letting users click the new button to tag images of wanted products.
The want button will eventually be available to all users, and the wish-listed items will appear within a user's Timeline profile page.
So far seven retailers, including Pottery Barn, Victoria Secret, Neiman Marcus, Wayfair, Michael Kors, Smith Optics, and Fab.com, have signed up to test the new feature.
"People will be able to engage with these collections and share things they are interested in with their friends. People can click through and buy these items off Facebook," according to a statement from Facebook.
While it sounds like it could help solve some shopping dilemmas, the benefits that a want button will have for Facebook revenue – and its stock and investors – are unclear.
Editors Note: Trying to figure out the best price to buy Facebook stock?.
Facebook Hunts for Earnings
A notable missing factor with Facebook's want button: The company will not receive a fee when a member purchases a wish list item on Facebook from a participating retailer's site.
Does Facebook, as it scrambles for revenue and searches for growth, really want to drive members away from its own site so they spend their money elsewhere – and not be compensated at all?
That's why news of the Collections feature was met with little fanfare, and the rollout failed to impress investors and analysts.
BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield downgraded Facebook to a "Sell" from a "Neutral" on Monday. He cited concerns about the company's waning advertising business and slow going efforts to monetize its growing traffic from mobile devices where it receives little or no revenue.
Greenfield said the company's efforts to make money off its services may come at the expense of users' experience.
Some analysts say the feature positions Facebook to have a larger role in e-commerce by encouraging its one billion users to purchase products by sending shoppers directly to online stores, but how Facebook will make this profitable is still murky.
The cold reception of the want button followed a similar greeting last week when the social networking giant announced its member tally reached the one billion milestone mark.
It also failed to generate excitement over its "promoted posts for users" feature that allows select U.S. members to pay a fee ($7) to improve the visibility of what they post on FB. Many were quick to criticize the idea; PC Magazine dubbed it a "tool for jerks."
Facebook Stock Not the Only One Suffering
Shares of FB made the most active list Monday, slumping 2.44% to finish the day at $20.40.
Facebook's valuation is now just a fraction of the $100 billion it was when it went public. Other social media companies are suffering a similar fate.
Last Thursday, Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA), the social games maker of the "cult-like" FarmVille and Words With Friends, warned of a third-quarter loss and slashed its outlook for the remainder of 2012 for the second time.
Among Zynga's mounting problems is its deep dependence on distributing its games on Facebook's platform. After Facebook made changes to how apps can be found on its site, some Zynga games became difficult to find.
While Zynga continues to enjoy steady user growth, revenue from in-game purchases of its virtual goods is declining.
Zynga is currently Facebook's largest partner and Facebook attracts most of its user base. In other words, when one sneezes, the other gets a cold.
That's why Zynga's decline is impacting Facebook's bottom line, too. In the first quarter of the year, Zynga made up 15% of Facebook's revenue from both advertising and the sale of virtual goods.
Facebook stock (FB) closed down 0.85% Tuesday to $20.23.
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