Jun 11, 2015 · 1 minute

Facebook is expanding an experiment with Shopify that allows consumers to purchase the materialistic menagerie of items shown in their News Feeds.

The exact number of businesses allowed to include this so-called "buy button" on whatever they share to Facebook is unknown. In its announcement, Shopify only says it's testing the feature with "a group of US-based Shopify merchants."

Yet it's clear Facebook's interest in this feature is mounting -- why else would it expand the feature beyond its initial testing? -- and many have guessed that it's because of the "buyable pins" (ugh) announced by Pinterest earlier this month.

Not that they're the only social companies interested in commerce. Twitter has also been testing commerce features on its own site, and Alibaba invested $200 million in Snapchat, ostensibly because it has similar plans for its own service.

TechCrunch argues that a lot of this interest is motivated by Facebook's desire to make sure its users never have to interact with a website it doesn't operate:

It’s all part of Facebook’s quest to absorb the Internet. Facebook’s in-line video player, Instant Articles, Messenger apps and games, Nearby Places, and more features each drive the same strategy: don’t let users leave. Rather than watching on YouTube, reading on news sites, gaming in other apps, going to Yelp, or clicking through to shop elsewhere, Facebook hopes you’ll do everything on its properties where it can push its open and connected mission while showing you ads.
I argued something similar when Twitter revealed its new Highlights feature. The company had long allowed others to handle much of its users' experience, especially when it came to finding news. Now it's being much more hands-on.

The end result is the same: Social networks, whether it's on their own or in partnership with companies like Shopify or Braintree, want to keep people as engaged with their websites as possible. Commerce will be a big part of that.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other websites used to be portals through which consumers could be taken anywhere they wanted to go on the Web. Now, at least in theory, they'll be more like a teeming bazaar no-one ever has to leave.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]