Forget Saying Happy Birthday To Your Friends On Facebook, It’s All About Gifts Now

We know that Facebook is in full gear when it comes to monetization. It was obvious the second that the company announced its “Gifts” offering, which lets you send a physical or virtual item to your buddies. It’s kind of cool, and the first gift I’ve ordered is in the mail.

One of the things that I enjoy doing the most on Facebook is saying “Happy Birthday!” to someone on their wall. Facebook had made this a super simple process by adding a quick link on your Newsfeed that said “Write on their Timeline.” Well, that easy shortcut is gone now, and “Give them a gift” has replaced it.

I don’t like it:

Of course I want to get my close friends a gift, but not before I actually say “Happy Birthday” to them. For me, communication is at the core of Facebook’s offerings, and dropping a middle step to communication by way of selling things kind of ruins that spirit.

The “Write on Timeline” option isn’t completely gone, mind you, but it certainly has been degraded from the Newsfeed experience:

Our own Josh Constine reached out to Facebook about this, and got in touch with Lee Linden, CEO of Karma and head of Facebook Gifts. Here’s what he was told:

If you hover over you can always choose to write on someone’s timeline with a little link.

Josh dug deeper and asked Linden if he thought this new change would reduce the number of birthday wall posts people get and Linden replied “I don’t think so.”

I’m not sure that I agree with that, and this shift certainly isn’t the end of the world. It just shows that Facebook is charting a new path to monetization, and is willing to creation friction for the communication flow that we’re used to.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has tinkered with birthdays, as Josh reminds me. The site used to show upcoming birthdays, then only today’s, which hasn’t really impacted Birthdayness as far as number of interactions. At one point they were even hidden.

Celebrating Birthdays is a Facebook tradition. As Josh points out:

Birthday wall posts are possibly the longest-standing and most iconic emergent behavior on Facebook. Since the early days, Facebook showed whose birthday it was on the home page, and people spontaneously started leaving wall posts ranging from a standard “Happy Birthday” to more personalized messages. It’s become something of a social contract, where it’s rude to not post to a close friend’s wall on their birthday. It’s also a gauge of influence, with beloved people getting more wall posts than jerks.

I just want to say Happy Birthday, man.

[Photo Credit: Flickr]