Facebook trials $100 fee to send messages to strangers
- Middle East: Tuesday, January 15 - 2013 at 17:26
"There are no such things as strangers, only friends we haven't met yet," said Irish poet William Butler Yeats, though there is some debate about the attribution. Either way, the author may have balked at his own words when slapped with a $100 fee to make his or her initial introductions.
Fast forward eight years. Facebook is still 100% free and the Ivy League dropout is reported to be worth $9.4bn. Why then would a multi-billionaire charge users a premium rate to send messages to his personal Facebook account?
Late last year Mashable broke the story that the cost of reaching Zuckerberg was a cool $100. With a high profile, and approximately one billion active users on his site, the young CEO is undoubtedly a top target for an abundance of fan messages, hopeful job applications and great deals on low price pharmaceuticals. In fairness, the fee will of course cut out the vast majority of unsolicited messages, save perhaps the most zealous individuals.
However, more recently, users have been reporting similar charges to contact others. Members of social news site Reddit have posted screen shots of fee requests for sending messages to other Facebook users not within their 'Friends' list, as per the image below.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, "we are testing some extreme price points to see what works to filter spam." It is not clear whether their definition of 'spam' includes awkward messages from long lost cousins and strangers you have not seen or heard of since pre-school, but (unfortunately) you may be hearing from fewer generous Nigerian princes.
The added dimension for the Middle East is that many countries, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, block dating websites, leaving single surfers with fewer options to make connections. Perhaps some will see a $100 message as a romantic gesture.
It's safe to say this is not a revenue driving gimmick; at least not for now. Users do still have the option to leave messages in a user's 'Other' inbox; often a wasteland for spam and brand page messages. Based on default settings, notifications are not given when such messages arrive.
With the site's traffic easing up in recent months and unprecedented numbers exiting the site, Facebook's overlords would be a tad foolish to experiment too much with premium rate features.
It is more likely any price points will be employed all in the name of an improved 'user experience', warding off spam, though it is debatable whether spam has ever been the main cause of anyone's chagrin when it comes to the social networking giant. Admins should dedicate a little more of their efforts to relentless unwanted game requests and ever-shifting privacy policies - other significant factors toward this new Facebook exodus.
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