The Facebook IPO is going live today and everybody is asking a multitude of questions. Is Facebook worth investing in? Is it just a fad? Will it be the biggest tech IPO in history? One question that seems to be getting ignored is what Facebook will do to monetize the platform now that its advertising value has been brought into question.
Peter Vogel, co-founder of Plink, thinks the answer lies in Facebook Credits. Writing an editorial for TechCrunch, Vogel says that Facebook Credits are about to become much bigger. Why? Facebook Credits made up 15 percent of Facebook's 2011 revenue according to Vogel, but only two percent of Facebook users actually bought said credits. There's a lot of room for growth there.
Why are so few people buying Facebook Credits though? Social gaming is about the only thing that really takes advantage of Facebook Credits on the platform and that's only for buying virtual goods. Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of the sale with the rest going to the developer. There are power users who buy a lot of Facebook Credits for their games, but can Facebook use its virtual currency to monetize the platform even further?
Vogel thinks that Facebook will start to really push its virtual currency after the IPO goes live. The reasoning is that he believes potential shareholders see advertising revenue, Facebook's current bread and butter, as less volatile than virtual currency. A post-IPO Facebook will be more free to experiment in new monetization methods that may help extend the platform beyond its already massive valuation.
Like myself, Vogel sees the future of Facebook in the recently announced App Center. It's here that the virtual currency can take center stage. He predicts that Facebook will make credits more visible and integrated into the experience. From the App Center, he thinks that Facebook will even suggest services to spend those credits on.
Vogel and I are once again on the same wavelength in thinking Facebook lowering its 30 percent cut on Facebook Credits will lead to more platforms adopting the service. If Netflix can ever get over its much publicized trouble with an archaic U.S. law, the platform could offer streaming over Facebook using the virtual currency. He even mentions more off the wall ideas like newspapers using Facebook Credits as a method to pay for subscriptions.
On a final note, he expects the revenue generated from Facebook Credits to double every year for the next five years. He even expects credits to overtake advertising in revenue by 2016. Payvment CEO Christian Taylor also sees a bright future in Facebook Credits. While I may not necessarily agree with the notion of Facebook Credits growing that much, it's obvious that they will become important.
I guess the next big question is whether or not Facebook will integrate Credits into Open Graph. Will Facebook allow outside vendors to use Credits on their own Web sites? Will we see a future where major online retailers offer the option to use Facebook Credits alongside PayPal and other traditional payment methods?
If Vogel is right, Facebook will be a major player in the online economy in a few years. They would cease being just a social networking platform and become the next Google - trying to be everything to everyone.