Why Would Facebook Charge for Messages?

facebook on phoneAfter trying out the feature in the United States, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) will be allowing select users in the close to 40 countries around the world to have access to a trial service that will charge them a small fell for sending messages to individuals outside their immediate friend network.

Facebook announced in late December that it would be testing a feature — like  LinkedIn’s (NYSE:LNKD)  InMail — that charges users one dollar to send messages to people that are not their friends, as part of the company’s efforts to update its messaging system. As the social network stated on its Newsroom page at the time, the change was “a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals.”

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“This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient,” Facebook added. “For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their Inbox.”

While update may seem like a ploy to give advertisers easier access to consumers, Facebook has said that marketers and brands will not be allowed to use the service. But that does not mean that this is not an attempt to generate revenue from an alternative source. The message charge could be an effective way to limit spamming, but it could also set a precedent for Facebook to sell access to users’ inboxes…

However, as AllThingsD contributor Peter Kafka noted, the paid-message service in its current form would not be a strong revenue generator. “If Coke wants to get my attention on the social network, Facebook has an ever-expanding series of ad options it wants to sell them,” he explained.

As CNNMoney reported Monday, the price the pay-to-message service will cost users will vary depending on a number of different factors, including the popularity of the person a user is attempting to contact. United Kingdom media experts told the publication that prices will range from about the equivalent of about $1 to $15.

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“The system of paying to message non-friends in their Facebook inbox is designed to prevent spam, while acknowledging that sometimes you might want to hear from people outside your immediate social circle,” explained a Facebook spokesperson.

But celebrities will not have to worry that a flood of messages with inundate their personal inboxes because Facebook will limit the number of paid messages a user can send to one per week. Although, it is still possible to send messages to people outside a user’s network for free, those messages will be routed to a junk folder — named the “other” folder.

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