Facebook abandons its currency

The social network is phasing out "Credits", allowing people to use real money again

Facebook has announced in a post on its developer blog that it is phasing out its proprietary currency, Facebook Credits, and allowing developers to deal in normal people money again.

The introduction of Credits across the network was part of Facebook's aim to monetise its business beyond its core strength in advertising, as well as strengthening its position as a burgeoning platform for app development (incedentally, "app" overtook "application" in search traffic just before Christmas 2010). The intention was to allow developers to abstract their payments from the fiddly process of accepting difference currencies at changing exchange rates, while guaranteeing Facebook a cut.

In practice, though, the most numerous and popular paid apps on Facebook are games, and most of them implement transactions through their own currencies. This introduced a fiddly two-step process – change money into Facebook credits, then credits into in-game money – which slowed uptake of the games.

Facebook has now cut out the middleman in appearance, if not in practice. Developers will be able to accept payments directly, but must still use the company's own payment system, which will continue to take a 30 per cent cut.

Facebook's Prashant Fuloria writes:

By supporting pricing in local currency, we hope to simplify the purchase experience, give you more flexibility, and make it easier to reach a global audience of Facebook users who want a way to pay for your apps and games in their local currency. With local pricing, you will be able to set more granular and consistent prices for non-US users and price the same item differently on a market-by-market basis.

A step back for Facebook, but it is in everyone's interest that they get a strong payment system off the ground eventually. Even if their 30 per cent cut for developers is untenable for consumers, the internet remains in sore need of a viable competitor the dreaded PayPal.

Tetris on Facebook. Now taking dollars! Though not pounds for some reason.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.