What I'd like to do on Facebook tonight

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Someone I care about a great deal just had her heart broken. (Memo to self: never forget just how profoundly high school can suck.) We wanted to send her something a little more substantial than Facebook's collection of little cartoon gifts.

Here's how it could have gone down:

I'd click the "Send a gift" link, and then the (currently existing only in my fevered imagination) "Facebook Gift Partners" link. I'd click the iTunes icon, select "gift certificate" (my other option would be "Launch iTunes Store"), fill in the amount, write a mawkishly whimsical little note and then click send. My credit card – information already on file – would be billed, and someone would get our note and the certificate in her Facebook inbox, along with a little music icon on her Facebook Gift Box.

Maybe this happened (here's where we enter pure fantasy) without Apple ever receiving either my info or hers. Or maybe it was an Amazon bestseller. Or a box of fair-trade chocolates. Regardless of what gift I was sending, the cool thing would have been doing it in a few clicks, without having to dig around in an address book and fill out YAFCIF (Yet Another Contact Information Form).

You could also see this working on a site like LinkedIn, helping to ease the exchange of those gifts that enliven business relationships. (Did I mention we take deliveries here between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.?)

In a less mercantile vein, let's go back to my broken-hearted recipient. Maybe I do give her one of those Facebook cartoons... but it's the $5.00 Facebook Fix-A-Heart teddy bear. And the note comes pre-filled-in (I can edit it, of course): "Hope this helps mend your broken heart... just like the donations from the sale of this teddy bear are helping to fix the hearts of kids at Vancouver Women and Children's Hospital."

Social networks do a marvellous job of bringing people together. But their reach is still nearly completely confined to virtual spaces. There are opportunities (and e-commerce is only the most mundane) to transform our relationships in the offline world as well.

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