Facebook's virtual gifts – money well spent?

In a post at VentureBeat yesterday, Eric Eldon shared some estimates that suggest Facebook’s revenue from virtual gifts this year will be in the range of $28 million to $43 million. That’s a serious amount of coin for nothing more than an image on a web page.

Gifts are priced at $1 each, and the study found that an average of 470,000 are sold each week.

Facebook introduced the gifts feature in February of 2007. A gift is simply an image of something, like a heart, a flower, or hundreds of other options, that when given, shows up on a “gift box” in a user’s profile. If the gift is public, then the recipients’ friends can see it, too. If it’s private, only the recipient and the giver can see it.

I think the key there is “simply an image”. This is definitely one of those things where you can’t help but think “why didn’t I come up with that!”

Clearly, gifts are a good source of income for Facebook. I wonder who buys them though. Why are people so happy to pay $1 for a bunch of pixels on a web page?

Surely that $40 million could have been spent on something better?