As is true with all things Facebook, the social network's announcement that it's testing a message fee is getting outsized attention. The usual response from commenters is something like: How dare Facebook do this to us!!

Under this test, non-friends can pay Facebook a fee to get their message sent to your Facebook inbox, rather than automatically being dumped into your "other" file. The test is limited to an unspecified but reportedly small number of individuals -- not companies -- for a fee of $1 a message or perhaps more.

Here's how a Facebook news release explained it, in part:

"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."

The fee test was announced at the same time that Facebook explained new changes to its message filtering system, which seems to give users more control over who can send messages to their inbox.

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Facebook makes it sound as if it's doing you a favor. In other words, spammers will be too cheap to pony up that kind of money, even at a dollar a pop. But do you really want to hear from everyone who is willing to spend a buck to get your attention?

Donna Tam at CNET said this test is "pointing the way to let people buy access to your inbox on the social network." (If you find a pay-to-play message in your inbox during this test, rejoice that there's currently a limit of one per week.)


What do others think about this?

Devin Coldewey at NBC News wrote that "the update inarguably allows strangers to spend money for priority access to your inbox. On a basic level, users may find this undesirable, even though they can always delete messages or mark them as spam, as before."

More to the point, a number of commenters on the Web said they think it's downright creepy that Facebook would allow strangers to get a message to you (that doesn't go into that "other" box). 

Right now, this experiment seems limited in scope. But what if Facebook decides to exploit this moneymaker? They've got to find more revenue somewhere.

"You probably don't need to worry about a draconian future in which you're charged for all Facebook communications -- but it's no stretch to speculate that the company could expand the service if it proves to be useful (or profitable)," Jeff Ward-Bailey wrote for The Christian Science Monitor.

Wrote Josh Constine on TechCrunch:

"If Facebook eventually lets legitimate businesses pay to message users, that would be very different than the test it announced today. Certainly fascinating, though. Facebook could offer high-priced messages that go directly to users and would be essentially guaranteed to be read. In that way it could leapfrog email marketing and its low open rates."

What do you think? Creepy or a sensible source of revenue?

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