Instagram on Tuesday unveiled Checkout, a new feature that lets users make purchases inside the app without the annoyance of every leaving the Facebook's warm embrace.
The feature itself is standard e-commerce: The 20 brands participating in the rollout-which include Nike, Dior, Warby Parker and Zara, among others-will be designated with a blue button, which let users not just view the targeted ads that clog their feeds, but spend money to buy the object they depict right from the ad itself. Payment information is stored within Instagram, and users provide their email address so retailers can complete the purchase. Retailers will give Instagram an unknown cut of the sales revenue, according to a report from TechCrunch.
While the project might look like a routine update that merely grants more convenience to the user and prominence to brands, it's also the culmination of Facebook's drive to not only subsume as much of the internet as it can, but to also transform your attention into money. With Facebook's advertising growth reportedly faltering after a saga of privacy scandals tarnished its public reputation and invited calls for heavier regulation, it makes perfect sense the company would seek to harness the attention of the 130 million users who already peruse products on Instagram each month a little more directly.
For years, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret of his ambitions to move all of the internet's various attractions inside Facebook's own walled garden, by force if necessary. When possible, it will buy its competitors (like Whatsapp and Instagram). When not, it will reinvent them inside itself. Most of the products unveiled by Facebook are quite clearly stand-ins for services that exist outside of it: Facebook Marketplace for Craigslist, Facebook Stories for Snapchat, the abandoned Facebook Instant Articles for Google News, and so on.
Now, with Checkout, Facebook can use Instagram to send a direct shot across the bow to Amazon, or at least attempt to take a slice of that pie for itself.
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