Facebook has made no secret that it wants to be active in the growing ecommerce sphere--back in September , the social media giant released Messenger Platform v1.2, which lets retailers sell products entirely within Facebook's chat platform. But get ready, everyday Facebook users, because Facebook is balancing the selling power. You now have a new, crazily convenient way to sell stuff through the Facebook app, too.

An improved spin on an old idea

Marketplace, rolled out on Monday, is a revamped take on Facebook's 2007 discontinued service of the same name. Available through the Shop icon at the bottom of the app, it formalizes the peer-to-peer sales people already were conducting by sharing sales posts with friends or groups. The tool allows you to:

  • View or post basic information about a sale item
  • View information about the seller, such as their profile picture and location
  • Message a seller or buyer
  • Make an offer
  • Arrange payments
  • Arrange pickup
  • Share the post elsewhere on Facebook
  • Conduct a search (including filtering results by category, price or location)
  • Browse for items in specific categories
  • Save items to look at again later
  • Post a sale to Marketplace and specific groups at the same time
  • View saved items, messages from others and items you've posted to sell

Facebook says it plans to improve the tool over time with new options and features to provide the best experience.

Competitors should worry, and with good reason

On a basic level, Marketplace is a competitor to sites like eBay or Craigslist. But its connection to one of the world's most wildly popular social media channels sets it apart in big ways.

  • Most other sales sites for general consumers use email or similar in-platform mail options to let buyers and sellers communicate. That process can be painfully slow, and users often have to be careful that messages don't get filtered out as spam. Facebook Marketplace lets you send and view messages in real time by integrating Facebook Messenger. Subsequently, you can create a sense of urgency about what you sell, potentially even hosting brief, cordial bidding wars that increase your final sale price.
  • The ability to share sale posts means that others essentially can market the item for you (at no cost to you) if desired. That means the number of people who see the item might go up, increasing the likelihood you'll find a buyer and get more money in your pocket.
  • No sales website or app can offer 100% protection for users, but Marketplace allows you to see basic profile information for sellers. You thus can get a sense about sellers before you exchange money or meet, and because it's hard for scammers to grab tons of friends, you can use the number of connections they have as one point for determining fraud risk.
  • Marketplace is largely image based and specifically built for mobile. That design, combined with the fact people are on Facebook for an average of 50 minutes a day anyway, encourages random browsing that can result in a higher number of spontaneous sales. The more items that people sell, the fewer items get stuck in landfills or have to go to a recycling center (which might charge a fee).

However, Facebook still has some issues to iron out with Marketplace. On Monday, Business Insider reported that some users were selling drugs, animals, and adult services, which goes against Facebook Commerce policies. Facebook says that a "technical issue" prevented the company from identifying some of these posts, but that it was working to fix the problem and was monitoring its reviewing systems.

Even so, Marketplace provides some conveniences and benefits other competitors currently don't. So once Facebook can efficiently remove sales that go against its policies--and unless other companies make an effort to integrate the advantages of social media into their own platforms--the tool likely will help solidify Facebook's position as an ecommerce leader.