Will Facebook users pay for extras?

The social network is testing to see whether people will pony up to highlight their status updates.

By Jonathan Berr May 14, 2012 11:05AM

Facebook, the social network that is about to launch the biggest-ever Internet IPO, is finally learning the oldest of business axioms: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

According to TechCrunch, Facebook is experimenting with a service that would enable users to pay to highlight their status updates to ensure that more friends see them. Believe it or not, only 12% of your friends see your status updates -- a statistic that may shock many Facebook users who seem to think the world awaits their every utterance with bated breath. 

TechCrunch points out that the Highlight service has many practical applications. "Sometimes you have a post you really need people to see, like 'I need a kidney donor,' 'I'm renting out my apartment' or 'I'm moving to New York, come say goodbye tonight,'" according to the blog. It could also be useful for job hunting and dating.

 

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Whether this will appeal to most Facebook users is hard to say. But many will, no doubt, be keenly interested in finding a new way to stand out from the crowd. And most likely there will be plenty of entrepreneurs interested in finding new ways to mine the data for huge profits.


LinkedIn (LNKD) has amassed big bucks selling services designed to make it easier for people to find jobs, so it's not a shock that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who turns 28 Monday, is looking to do the same. Of course, the new service could open the spam floodgates on Facebook's 1 billion or so users, but that is a risk the newly minted billionaire is willing to take. This will give investors, such as Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak, yet another reason to snap up shares of Facebook.

In less than a decade, Facebook has evolved from a secret cyberclub open only to students at elite colleges to a multibillion-dollar enterprise that has changed modern society. Along the way, Zuckerberg and company have amassed a huge amount of valuable information about their users, such as what they like and dislike. Advertisers use the data to target advertisements -- which to them isn't everything, it's the only thing. In theory, someone who likes Cap'n Crunch would be interested in receiving cyber coupons for the sugary cereal. The same goes for ads for political candidates and local restaurants. Traditional  media like TV and newspapers should be scared to death.

Highlight may be the start of a new chapter in  the evolution of Facebook as a corporation -- or the beginning of the end of what was once considered the coolest corner of the Internet.  It will take years for people to know which Facebook vision will turn out to be true.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of any of the listed companies. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.com.

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391Comments
May 14, 2012 1:02PM
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There is no way I would pay to use Facebook.  As it is I don't like any of the so-called "improvements" they've made to the site, such as Timeline and the fact that you have to go into each of your friends' profiles individually to change what you want to see from them.  Although I don't post much myself, I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to and it's annoying knowing that Facebook is basically deciding to post only what IT feels is important to me.  I'm still getting enough out of it to keep using it, such as cute photos of my niece and being able to keep in touch with long-distance friends and relatives, but I'll drop it in a heartbeat if I have to pay for it.
May 14, 2012 3:03PM
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If its free, its for me. If it cost, get lost.

May 15, 2012 12:00PM
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I won't pay a dime for ANYTHING on facebook....I will just delete the account....I still have a life, unlike some of my friends who have 1600 facebook friends (only 10 they have ever spoken to face to face)...I like to play around with it, but it isn't my life....
May 14, 2012 2:32PM
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I have Facebook "just because."  I rarely even use it.  I don't care that much about others' personal lives (if they really want me to know, they can tell me directly) and I don't care to spill the details of my own life to a bunch of other people.  Also, I don't need to be friends with people from high school that I was never friends with in the first place.  Needless to say, I won't be paying for extras.
May 14, 2012 3:26PM
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Finally....light at the end of the cyber tunnel.  If Facebook charges users, I'll be dropping out.  Just think....more real face time with friends and family.  I might even start reading books again.
May 14, 2012 2:22PM
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Today:

"It's free and always will be."

Tomorrow:

"It's free and always will be...until it's not."

Anyone else getting tired of this kind of logic EVERYWHERE?
May 15, 2012 12:04PM
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I wouldn't pay for Facebook, when that starts, I will delete. Most of my friends on facebook would do the same thing too.
May 14, 2012 11:37AM
May 14, 2012 11:53AM
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I will not use Facebook when it is free why would I want to pay for the privilege of telling everyone what I did today; actually the fewer people who know anything about my personal life the happier I am.
May 14, 2012 8:36PM
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What happend to "It's free, and always willl be."?  
May 15, 2012 6:34AM
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You bought the hype...you must be the type...grow up everyone...you do not need Facebook..you don't need status updates to be connected to people...get real...have real friends..by the way real friends are not numbered in the hundreds...it's not a contest...more is not better
May 14, 2012 12:58PM
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Facebook is boring.
I have no interest in wasting hours of my time trying to catch up with what other people are doing.
If you want to talk to me, call me or come over. I don't have time to waste on this useless junk.

May 15, 2012 1:13PM
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I use Facebook but if I had to pay for it I wouldn't. 
May 15, 2012 12:21PM
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No f'***ing way will I pay for anything on Facebook. It's already so inundated with commercial ads (that are the source of revenue for FB) and other BS that it's irritating to use it in the first place. If my self-esteem falls to such a level that I have to pay to be noticed, then I have bigger problems that need to be addressed.
May 15, 2012 10:31AM
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I will never pay for facebook...never. 
May 14, 2012 2:43PM
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I hope Facebook starts charging for use because it will give me solid reason to drop out.  I will be the first to admit I waste entirely too much time on the sight.  It does have it's pros by keeping one "in the loop", but I'd say at least 80% of the time I'm on it's just braindead browsing through friends pictures of whatever they did that day and their pointless status updates.   
May 14, 2012 2:16PM
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If facebook charges it would be like slitting their own throat: people are really cheap.
May 14, 2012 2:16PM
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I do not have a facebook account.  I'm not so self-absorbed that I think people care what I'm doing.  I don't want people knowing my business anyway.
May 14, 2012 2:07PM
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Okay, as they begin charging, I'm dropping out.  It 's really not that important to me to be paying to to use it.Thinking
May 14, 2012 10:00PM
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This is just more corporate greed.
This sh*t needs to end.

First his buddy gives up his American citizenship to avoid taxes when FB IPO is released, now this?

Scum

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