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Twitter and Facebook see a bright future for in-the-moment spending

Both companies are looking at new services around shopping and promotions

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If you're an impulse buyer trying to reform your ways, Facebook and Twitter are not on your side.

Both companies said Thursday they were working on new services to let their users either make purchases directly from their feeds or gain instant access to deals and promotions that can be redeemed in stores. It's the latest display of competition heating up between the companies as they seek to add digital storefront real estate to their sites.

Why waste clicks getting to Amazon or eBay when you can have all your fun in between retweets or "likes"? Naturally, you might also retweet the advertiser's promotion, which would make Twitter happy.

With Twitter, the technology comes courtesy of CardSpring, which Twitter said it had acquired.

CardSpring lets software developers create offers inside their apps that users can add to their debit or credit cards. When the person makes a purchase in the store, the offer or discount is automatically applied.

The idea is that on Twitter, similar types of offers from businesses might appear in the stream. Twitter users could access the offers by providing their payment information to Twitter or some other processor. "We're confident the CardSpring team and the technology they've built are a great fit with our philosophy regarding the best ways to bring in-the-moment commerce experiences to our users," Twitter said in its announcement.

Twitter has already integrated some e-commerce functions to its site, such as by letting people add items to their Amazon carts by replying "#AmazonCart" to certain tweets. Twitter also has partnered with American Express to let card holders buy items by tweeting in a certain way. Those only work for users who synchronize their Twitter accounts with their Amazon or American Express accounts.

CardSpring's technology could make for a more streamlined buying experience, maybe even one with a dedicated "buy" button. Previous reports have indicated Twitter might be looking in that direction.

Twitter did not say Thursday that such a button was coming. "We'll have more information on our commerce direction in the future," the company said.

A "buy" button for Facebook is definitely on the horizon. The company is now testing a service to let users buy retail items directly from their news feeds or from a business' page. There are only a few small and medium-sized businesses participating now. Facebook identified only one: Modify Watches, which makes interchangeable watches that the company says are "dope."

Naturally, these e-commerce services could help Facebook and Twitter's bottom lines by attracting vendors that want to connect with potential customers.

One barrier to their success could be people's willingness to share their payment information with Facebook or Twitter. Facebook, in its announcement, said it built its feature with privacy in mind and that no payment information would be shared with other advertisers. People can also select whether they want to save their payment information for future purchases, Facebook said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com



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