Apple Brings iTunes Gift Cards To Its Facebook Fans, With Help From Blackhawk And GroupCard
Tuesday, December 8, 2009; 12:37 PM
Earlier today the iTunes Facebook Fan page rolled out a nifty new feature: you can now create custom iTunes gift cards and send them directly to a friend through Facebook or via Email. This is pretty nice in and of itself, but also interesting is the fact that the application was built in part by GroupCard, a startup that lets friends and coworkers jointly create a greeting card. GroupCard was a winner of fbFund in winter 2008 and later took part in the fbFund REV incubator program. Update: The application's front end UI was built by GroupCard, the backend was handled by Blackhawk Network, the United States' largest provider of third party giftcards.
Using the iTunes Gifts Facebook app is pretty straightforward: you pick from one of six different templates, which include designs for the holidays, birthdays, and a few with those ubiquitous colorful iPod colorful dancers. Then you choose how much you'd like to gift (options run from $5 to $50) and the names of your Facebook friends or Email addresses as recipients. Finally you can customize the card with your own personal message. Once you're done, you can choose to send it immediately, or specify a day on which it should be sent (which makes it great for holiday/birthday shopping).
This appears to be one of the only ways to purchase a digital iTunes giftcard ? the Apple site itself only offers physical versions, and sites like Gifts.com and Giftcards.com don't have them either. Aside from this Facebook app, the only place we're seeing the option is from within the iTunes desktop app itself.
GroupCard built the application front end, but they aren't actually listed on it. That's because the processor of the gift cards is the Gift Card Mall (part of Blackhawk Network, which specializes in pre-paid cards). Apple, Blackhawk, and GroupCard worked in tandem to launch the new feature. Update: Blackhawk powers the backend of the application through its API. The company has a longstanding relationship with Apple, which is why Apple chose it to power the Gift Card application on its iTunes page.
It's also worth noting that GroupCard is one of Facebook's preferred apps to test out new features with ? earlier this year it was the first to test Facebook payments. It's possible that GroupCard may eventually be able to allow users to purchase iTunes songs using Facebook credits, which would obviously be a big deal. GroupCard CEO John Anderson says that there aren't any immediate plans to do this and he can't comment beyond that. But he says that GroupCard is looking forward to working with other brands in the future. Update: Given that GroupCard is powering the frontend of the app but not the transactions, it seems like this would be unlikely any time in the near future, at least in the case of iTunes songs.
Anderson also says that the service is getting 250k monthly uniques, and has grown 300% YTD.