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Facebook-MOL Partnership Brings Virtual Credits to Real Stores

MOL Facebook

Facebook is partnering with MOL Global to deliver a new way to buy Facebook credits—in person at a MOL-connected store. It's a strange real world/virtual world crossover, and definitely a sign of the way future digital finances will work.

MOL is a hot-topic Internet financial company, though if you haven't heard about it it's not surprising—while it operates in 75 countries, mainly its operations are centered in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, India, Australia, and New Zealand. According to its press data, the company handles "over 60 million transactions" annually, leveraging "a network of more than 540,000 physical payment collection points" that connect to 88 banks in nine different countries. It's also a name you may have heard of in relation to Friendster, since it acquired the social network back in December 2009.

MOL's transaction count is very likely to skyrocket from that 60 million figure now, though. It's partnership with Facebook means that people using a MOL terminal will be able to fork over real cash to buy Facebook Credits, which they can then spend on virtual goods and services inside Facebook's apps. MOL notes that the partnership will make it "significantly easier and more convenient for millions of people across Asia" to buy Facebook credits, and given the addictive nature of the social net, and many of its casual games systems, this is going to result in a lot of traffic through MOL's systems.

But exactly who are the netizens MOL is targeting with this? It's going to be a complex mix of people who don't use credit cards (which is the main method for buying FB credits) and prefer pre-payment systems for things like cell phones, and kids who don't yet own one. Plonking their pocket money down to buy virtual credits at a MOL terminal is likely to be easier than persuading Mom or Dad to hand over their credit details. There's also going to be MOL gift cards carrying Facebook credits, which many will see as a neat birthday present for the Net Generation.

Facebook Credits are currently a simplified system to pay for services inside Facebook, without requiring clients to continually type in card information when they're making micropayments for in-game extras and the like. They're a form of virtual currency, something akin to Linden Dollars inside virtual world Second Life. But as Facebook becomes ever-bigger, and its financial muscles begin to flex, Facebook Credits could become a weird kind of de-facto global currency. And when you can spend Credits inside Facebook to get real-world products delivered to your door, the virtual-real-virtual circle will be complete. All sorts of fiscal matters are going to arise at this point, and MOL is just the first step.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.