Virtual currencies, Micro-payments and Facebook
Lots of people have been dabbling in Facebook as a financial interface, including linking to secure banking, apps related to peer-to-peer lending sites, and many more. Facebook is now testing virtual currency in partnership with GroupCard. Users would buy credits for 10 cents each from Facebook, paying with their credit card. They could then use credits to pay for things inside Facebook. The intention is to enable merchants to offer services for small amounts on a viable basis. Facebook would take a cut, generating a new revenue stream for the application.
Facebook may succeed here, where other microcurrencies have not. (Remember Beenz?) Someone is going to get the micropayments thing right eventually, I think. This is not so different from the credits you buy on stock art sites such as istockphoto (and probably other places too).
Loyalty points are practically a currency, since you can buy a wide variety of items with points now.
Source: Finextra, June 1, 2009 Facebook begins testing virtual payments system
Gold works better than flowers department
A German precious metals trader, TG-Gold-Super-Markt is testing ATMs that will dispense gold.
Thomas Geissler, chief executive, told Reuters that the initiative is "more than a marketing gimmick.' The current plan is to place as many as 500 machines in locations like rail stations and airports.
I'll say one thing: it's easier to carry a gold wafer with your luggage than a bouquet. And the value lasts longer than a stuffed animal or a key-chain. It even works as an environmentally correct gifting strategy, since it's unlikely to wind up in landfill.
Sources: Finextra, May 29, 2009. German firm plans gold-dispensing ATMs.
Reuters, May 19, 2009. German firm plans gold ATMs to meet growing demand.