Fresh in the memories of airline travelers are the new fees charged to check luggage through to destinations. First appalled, then angered and finally resolved, travelers watched as American Airlines set the precedent and other airlines jumped on board.
A similar trend is emerging among popular social networking websites, specifically, charging for a service we’ve all taken for granted: free messaging to other users. Their representatives claim the new fees provide a means to reduce SPAM and prevent overfull in boxes. While LinkedIn.com has long required annual fees of a minimum $39.95 per year for users to send unrestricted messages to others outside their linked network, a wild rumor serviced in January from the absurdest online tabloid The Weekly World News that Facebook will start charging fees to use the service:
According to sources outside the company, Facebook is planning a subscription-based service with monthly fees starting at $0.99 for a basic “friendship” which allows for the posting of text and just one profile picture. This fee will increase, depending on the number of friends you have, the messages posted and sent, and the pictures/videos/games put on a user’s page. The monthly fee will be capped at $50.00 per month at the high-end….
Here’s where things get weird. While that story was outrageous, it was based on some facts hidden within the Facebook website:
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. 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.
In fact, Facebook now charges users to send messages by instilling doubt that an unsolicited message to an out-of-network friend will not make it to his or her in box. While initial rumors had the fee around $1.00 per message, the current price is set at 28 cents to guarantee the message doesn’t go to the SPAM folder, or what Facebook calls the “Other” folder.
The small price tag for sending the message seems more than arbitrary to us, as it nearly pegs the cost for what it costs to send a piece of bulk snail mail through USPS. We see a good business for Facebook in parlaying messages. The folks at Mashable seem to agree:
Facebook is billing the change as an attempt to crack down on SPAM by seeing if “imposing a financial cost on the sender” serves as a deterrent to sending unwanted messages. Yet, it seems just as likely that it could lead to an increase spam, as anyone from a marketer to your ex-girlfriend could potentially use the option to flood your inbox with unwanted messages.