Facebook Testing New Pay-Per-Message System

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook is testing a new messaging system that will cost people $1 to send a message to a stranger. It's designed to deter spammers from using the site to annoy Facebook members, but some analysts have suggested Facebook could also be looking to profit from the new system.

Right now you can send a Facebook message to another user for free, even if they aren't your 'friend' on the site. However, in most cases, this message will not find its way into the recipient's 'Inbox.' Instead, it will go into a separate message folder marked 'Other.'

Because you won't get alerted in the same way as you will with a message from a friend, in most cases the only way to see messages in the Other box is to manually check.

Facebook says it wants to improve its system to make sure the most important messages wind up in the Inbox. For example, a message from someone who isn't your Facebook friend, but who shares a common friend with you, may arrive in your Inbox -- if your privacy settings allow.

According to Facebook, this is an example of social signals affecting its mail filtering.

$1 Charge Puts Message In Inbox

Now Facebook wants to try what it calls "economic filtering." The new messaging system will allow Facebook members to send a message to someone who isn't a friend, and pay $1 to guarantee it goes into their Inbox.

The theory is that the small charge will deter spammers.

Facebook believes the new cost will encourage members to send only those messages that will be of genuine interest to recipients, such as a job offer or a follow-up note to a conference speech. (Source: fb.com)

Facebook is currently testing the $1 system, but only with a small group of US users.

Similar System Used by LinkedIn

The BBC notes a similar feature already exists on LinkedIn, a popular social network aimed at business users. The site charges users a monthly fee, rather than a per-message charge, to contact people to whom they aren't 'connected.' (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Meanwhile, tech writer Donna Tam suggests the new system may offer hidden benefits to Facebook.

She notes that people wanting to use the feature must register their credit cards with Facebook. Once they've done so, they're much more likely to make impulse purchases elsewhere on the site. (Source: cnet.com)

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