Facebook testing out fees to send messages to Inboxes

Users can pay to send messages to the Inbox of someone not in their network, instead of spam folder

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 20, 2012
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Earlier this year, Facebook said that it was going to let users pay to promote their posts, essentially encouraging users to pay to do what they've always done. A report from Sterne Agee only a week or so later found that people were overwhelmingly not interested. 83.6% said they would pay nothing to promote their posts. Not one dollar.

Now Facebook is going down a similar road with Messages, but there is clear difference this time, which may allow it to succeed, where, Promoted Posts did not.

Facebook announced Thursday that it was going to begin a new test, in which it is going to allow people to send messages to the Inbox of people they do not know, as long as the spender is willing to pay a fee.

Facebook Messages has something called the “Other folder,” where messages that are “less relevant,” go.

Facebook determines what messages go to this folder based on both social signals (this is where messages go if they are sent by someone who the user doesn’t know or has no mutual friends with) and algorithmic, meaning that Facebook tries to determine if the message is spam.

With this test, though, users would be able to send message directly to another user’s inbox, even if they do not know them, or have no connections with them.

While some may decry this as Facebook not respecting their privacy by giving access to their Inbox to those who can pay for it, the way the social network explains it in a way that makes it sound less insidious.

“Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful,” Facebook wrote in a blogpost Thursday.

“This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient. 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. For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them."

By making people pay for this privilege, it will discourage those sending mass spam message, since they will not want to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to do so. Instead, only those with a dedicated interest in making sure that their message is received will be willing to pay the fee.

The difference between what Facebook is doing with Messages, as opposed to having people pay to get their posts to the top of the list, is that in this case it seems less about trying to wring money out of users, and more about giving them a new option that will actually be beneficial.

The test is being conducted only for personal messaged in the United States, and only one message can be routed to the Inbox a week.

New filters 

In addition to the new test, Facebook also made good on changes it proposed to its latest privacy policy last month.

The thing that I, and just about everyone else, paid attention to when that announcement was made was the provision that stopped people from being able to vote on those changes going forward. There were other changes that Facebook was proposing, though including replacing the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting on Facebook Message with new filters for managing incoming messages; changes to Facebook refer to certain products, such as instant personalization; reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook; and tips on managing a timeline.

Well, as I reported, not enough people voted to change these policies from going into effect, so today Facebook announced Thursday that it was going forward with the proposed changes to Facebook Message.

There will now be two filters for users to choose from for their Inbox:

Basic Filtering, where users will mostly see messages from friends and people they may know, meaning they can get message from friends of friends, for example. Basic Filtering will work the same way as if a user previously had the Inbox set to "friends of friends" or "everyone.”

Strict Filtering, where users will mostly get messages from friends in your Inbox. This new filter correlates to having previous set the Inbox to "friends."

With the new filters, there are people who can send messages to Inboxes who previously could not. These include people using Messenger for Android who are not on Facebook, a feature debuted earlier this month.

Also, friends of friends can now include users in a message, along with mutual friends, and friends can send messaged to a user’s address.

As before, users can still block people from their Inbox, or move unwanted messages to the Other Folder or report it as spam.

(Image source:


The difference between what Facebook is doing with Messages, as opposed to having people pay to get their posts to the top of the list, is that in this case

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