Facebook says, Let's Make a Deal

As expected, Facebook is entering the world of online discounts ruled by Groupon and Living Social. Will it succeed? There's no guarantee.

In what might be the least surprising news scoop ever, Facebook has confirmed it is entering the burgeoning online discounts market, according to a report in the New York Times.

Groupon and Living Social? That thumping sound you hear is a 900-pound gorilla banging on your cage. TreatFeed? Dudes, it was nice almost knowin’ ya.

Facebook Deals is launching as a test in five cities (Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco), effective today. Sign up and you may start getting offers in your news feed for deals on concert tickets and other group activities. Want to join in the fun? You’ll need to buy Facebook Credits, its virtual payment system, or hand over a credit card number.

[ See also: Turning your social graph info money ]

As I write this, Facebook is offering Deals for introductory improv classes in Austin ($100 or 1000 Facebook credits, marked down from $150), Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ in Atlanta ($20 worth of vittles for $8), five pole fitness classes in Dallas ($49, a 60 percent discount), a bike tour of wine country north of San Francisco (half off at $74) and two tickets to see Glee Live in San Diego (for $78, not $132).

[img_assist|nid=159321|title=Facebook Deals - Hottie Hawgs in Atlanta|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=599|height=414]

Click ‘Buy’ on any of these, and Facebook will email you a link to a voucher you must print and bring with you. Some of these deals expire in 24 hours, others are available for a week. And of course you can buy them no matter where you live, though you can only use them in the cities offered (duh).

Personally, I would pay $78 to not see Glee Live, but I’d happily eat some spicy ribs while watching the gals pole dance, riding my bike, and slurping chardonnay.

The blogosphere has already latched onto the phrase “Groupon-killer,” which I guess is a kind of honor. You know you’ve really made it when a megacorp 100 times your size decides to snuff you out. Congratulations, Groupon. Now cash out your stock options before they’re worthless.

Not that Facebook is assured of success simply because of its size and reach. (See Google, Buzz.) A lot could go wrong with Deals, much of it outside Facebook’s control – like if vendors short change their customers or get spammy on them. And now that Facebook is officially in the online payments racket, expect to see a lot more scams trying to siphon money from your account. It’s going to get ugly, folks.

Also, a side note: For many of these discounts Facebook has partnered with a company called KGB deals, whose outbound sales force are known as KGB agents. No joke.

I’d always wondered what happened to those guys after the Cold War. Glad to see they landed on their feet.

Want more of this silliness? Check out eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow me on Twitter: Tynan_on_tech.

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