Facebook joins Google in taking on Groupon

New Facebook Deals service focuses on hooking friends up for discounted products and fun experiences

Things must be heating up in the Groupon offices.

Last week, Google launched a beta test version of its new Google Offers competitor to Groupon service. And today Facebook added an offering that further takes on the increasingly popular site that offers daily discounts to local restaurants, services and attractions.

Facebook Tuesday launched the Deals on Facebook service in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco. The new service focuses on helping users find discounts on local activities like concerts or hot air balloon rides.

"While many Deals on Facebook offer discounts, it's more important to us that you find interesting experiences around you to do with friends," wrote Emily White, Facebook's director of local, in a blog post.

"For example, Austin City Limits Live is offering an 'All Access Experience' for concerts starting in May. You can buy this deal and get backstage passes, sound check access and a catered dinner in addition to attending the show," she added.

Facebook said the service is set up so users can get deals in a few different ways. For example, users can sign up for email notifications or they can click on the Deals tab on their own Facebook homepage. And if their online friends share information on a particular deal, it will show up in their news feed.

Facebook first announced plans to offer deals to its users last November. The social network's first stab at the service was to enable local businesses to offer discounts or other deals on their Facebook page.

Then last month, Facebook gave the service a boost -- and started after groupon -- by setting it up so users could receive offers, instead of having to go looking for them.

Today's Facebook news comes on the heels Google's plan to go after a chunk of Groupon's local, daily-deals market.

Much like Groupon, Google Offers is designed to send people who sign up for the service daily discounts for local restaurants, services and attractions. According to the Google Offers sign-up page, the coupons offer discounts of 50% or more.

Groupon has risen to online fame as a local deal-of-the-day Web site. Now major Internet players like Google and Facebook are trying to get in on the game.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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