Social networks need to find a way to make money fast. Online advertising never really worked well on social networks in the first place, and with online advertising feeling the same pressure as everything else in the economy, new sources of revenue must be found. Internationally-oriented social network hi5 is turning to virtual gifts, which can be bought with virtual coins that members buy with real money. Members can buy virtual gifts for about a dollar each and send them through hi5 to their friends (both real and virtual).
True to its international reach, hi5 is taking a multi-culti approach to virtual gifts. They include a Mexican Rosca cake, a dreidel, and a steamed pork bun. Don’t ask me what culture values rocks or finds cats in cups to be tasty (see below). Each virtual gift costs 80 coins, or about $1.
Hi5 is claiming to be the “first major social network to launch its own virtual currency.” But Facebook has been selling virtual gifts for a long time, even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg won’t talk about how much they are bringing in. Each virtual gift on Facebook also costs $1, and you buy them with 100 gift credits. Facebook’s gift credits are no different than hi5 coins, other than they are not as shiny. They perform the exact same function.
In the future, however, hi5 members will be able to buy other “premium goods and services” with their coins.