Facebook hasn’t confirmed the project, but All Facebook says the source is “extremely reliable.”
Assuming the email is authentic, here’s what we can say about Facebook’s deals so far:
- This is a self-serve system. Individual merchants set up discounts they want to offer in exchange for checking in to their stores. This means Facebook could probably scale this up quickly if it takes it out of stealth mode, without hiring a huge sales force to deal with merchants.
- Merchants can customise their offers so that they require a user to check-in a certain number of times, or to check-in at the same time as a certain number of friends (“social check-ins”). Social check-ins haven’t been a focus for Foursquare yet, but competitors like Loopt and Scvngr are already doing this.
- It’s not clear what, if anything, Facebook is charging merchants. The company could be offering this up for free at least initially, to provide users an incentive to use Places.
- Facebook is reviewing the deals before approving them, but doesn’t appear to be doing any quality control beyond that. Training employees to honour the deals appears to be 100% on the merchants. Again, that helps Facebook scale this indefinitely without staffing up, but could also create a lot of user frustration.