Facebook releases virtual currency alpha

Facebook logo

Facebook this week announced its new virtual currency system which aims to build on its existing credit system, as well as provide some steep competition to existing third-party providers.

The new system, currently in alpha testing, builds on the existing Facebook credit system by allowing users to expand their buying power within the Facebook platform. Previously, credits could only be used to buy and send gifts from the Facebook Giftshop.

The new virtual currency system will enable the use of credits within applications and games on the Facebook platform - territory previously occupied exclusively by third-party virtual currency providers.

In a post on Facebook's developer blog, Justin Osofsky said: "Our 250 million users can now buy Facebook Credits in 15 currencies and we believe that, as Facebook Credits become more broadly available on Platform, they will meaningfully improve developer monetisation and provide a great experience for users."

However, initial speculation by commentators has suggested that this new system could be the beginnings of a universal virtual currency platform that would allow Facebook to create revenue off the back of the thousands of applications operating on its platform - something it has abstained from in the past.

Additionally, news of the launch has been seen by many online reports as an aggressive move by Facebook towards third party companies, such as Offerpal and Zong, which already operate virtual currency platforms within Facebook.