Always on the search for a new revenue stream (cue sarcasm), Facebook is now testing a new system that would give users (and not necessarily your friends) the ability to send you a Facebook message for $1. Super!
Right now, anyone can send you a Facebook message for free (provided you’ve allowed that option in your privacy settings). Messages from people who aren’t your Facebook friends typically wind up in your “Other” messages folder. And by the way, if you’ve not checked your “Other” messages folder lately and want a good chuckle, do. There are a bunch of losers in mine who, apparently, think I’m hot and potentially interested in their affections.
With this new Facebook messaging system, people can pay to get messages to other Facebook users—not unlike the concept behind promoted posts, which give Facebook users the ability to pay to get their status updates seen by a larger audience. As Facebook puts it: “Someone you’re not connected to on Facebook may pay to ensure their message is routed to your inbox instead of your Other folder,” regardless of which filtering option you use for your Facebook messages.
This new functionality is not at all unlike LinkedIn’s InMail system, so there’s a part of me that’s not sure what all the fuss is about. Other than the fact that LinkedIn is all about business and business development, so the ability to pay for the ability to connect with someone makes sense there. But most folks using Facebook are more interested in posting pics of the food they’re eating (guilty) and their kids (also guilty) and fooling around with friends (yup, guilty of that, too) than receiving unsolicited messages (business or otherwise) from creeps selling stuff or wanting to connect with you. At least that’s my guess.
Our friends at Business Insider are a lot less skeptical about this new feature than many: “Some people will think this is Facebook trying to find a new way to make money. We do not. We doubt it’s going to generate much, if any, revenue. The only dubious, conspiratorial business reason we can see for this is that Facebook would presumably get more users to punch in their credit card numbers, which could be helpful down the road.”
To some extent, we agree. Spammers aren’t known for their interest in spending a bunch of dough to reach you, they’d much rather get to you through unscrupulous methods that are free. But anyone with a dollar to spend could, in theory (provided they roll this test out sitewide) send you an email, guaranteed to land in your inbox, and know when you’ve read it.
This tactic could, however, be stupendous for bill collectors, who will typically stop at nothing to get your attention. Hmmmm. Talk about a quick way to really piss people off and violate their privacy, all at the same time.
That being said, I can also see why many, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are upset about this. Privacy is a big deal. And being able to protect your Facebook profile from just anyone having access is, well, also a big deal.
We’re going to do what we usually do, which is to try and avoid histrionics and adopt a wait and see attitude. One thing’s for sure, time will, most definitely, tell when it comes to a feature like this. We’re also interested in Facebook’s (and other social networking sites’) continual evolution to more and more paid features. Doesn’t it only make sense?
What are your thoughts on the news? Is this a huge breach of privacy or not all that big of a deal? We’d love to hear what you think.
Image by Rich B-S via Creative Commons