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Facebook’s Craigslist competitor will soon feature a lot more than just your neighbor’s old junk

  • Facebook's Marketplace will start selling tickets and other merchandise
  • The company aims to learn what people are looking for in the app, and then start selling more of that
  • The company still has no plans to turn Marketplace into a payments facilitator, however
Deborah Liu of Facebook
Jacob Kepler | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Deborah Liu of Facebook

Facebook has big plans for Marketplace, the Craigslist-like section inside its app where people can sell used goods to others in their neighborhood.

It's just not sure what those big plans should look like.

So to figure that out, Facebook is throwing a bunch of products inside Marketplace to see what people want, including more professional products and services offered by actual retailers, not just regular Facebook users.

Facebook now shows job postings inside Marketplace, and recently started offering "daily deals" as part of a new arrangement with eBay. But Facebook has more categories coming to Marketplace, including ticket sales and products from retailers' shopping Pages, said Deb Liu, the Facebook VP who oversees Marketplace, in an interview with Recode.

Until now, Facebook has limited postings inside Marketplace to individual users, not business Pages. But that's changing as the company expands into more areas. Facebook hopes to learn what kinds of stuff people want to find inside Marketplace, then push deeper into those areas.

"We'll kind of look and see what's popular, what people want to engage with," Liu said. "So if people are searching or looking for something, we want to make that available to them."

One popular area has been auto sales, so Liu says Facebook will soon feature cars for sale inside Marketplace from local car dealerships. It plans to do the same with real estate listings to increase inventory for apartment hunters.

Facebook did not share details about who, specifically, it was planning to partner with for these categories. And the company did not highlight any specific retailers during our conversation.

So Facebook wants higher-quality options inside Marketplace, but it's unclear where they will come from.

Still, some of these more traditional retail options, like ticket sales and shopping pages, already exist inside Facebook. They're just scattered throughout the app, and it's possible most people don't even know they exist. Which is one of the reasons Facebook is bringing them all into one central location, Liu said.

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One area it doesn't plan to push into: Payments. Right now, Facebook connects buyers and sellers, but the actual transactions still happen off site. Facebook isn't making money from any transactions it helps facilitate, and that's not going to change anytime soon.

"Eventually, we could go in a number of different directions [with payments]," Liu said. "But right now we're really trying to figure out, 'how do you actually drive engagement between people and businesses, people and other people locally?' That's how we really think about the product."

Facebook has tried to get commerce to stick inside the social network for years without much success. It closed a gifts service, and dabbled with "buy buttons" that never took off.

Marketplace is Facebook's latest hope — and the changes raise the question of whether they are being made because the initial version of Marketplace hasn't taken off. But Liu says Marketplace has had "tremendous growth," with 18 million items listed inside Marketplace in the U.S. alone back in May. But not all of the items are high quality.

Given Facebook's ambitions here, and its willingness to get more established retailers and businesses using Marketplace, that could start to change.

By Kurt Wagner, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.