Facebook begins testing new $1 fee to send messages to strangers

In an effort to discourage spam and increase revenue, Facebook is testing out a new program that will charge users to send a message to someone not on their friends list.

According to the BBC, paying the $1 fee to send the user a message means that the message won’t end up in the user’s spam or de-prioritized folders, which is what Facebook says usually happens when you try and send someone you aren’t friends with a message.

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Facebook users have two folders where messages go: their Inbox where they receive messages from friends, and an Other folder which contains messages from people they aren’t friends with on Facebook. A quick scan of my ‘Other’ folder on Facebook revealed that most of the messages I’ve received that have ended up in there are from Pages or Groups I don’t frequently engage with.

As Facebook explains on their blog, they want to test the usefulness of being able to send messages to those you aren’t friends with a message, and paying to have it promoted in importance:

“This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient,” a representative for Facebook said in the blog post. “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.”

A similar ‘pay-to-contact’ system already exists on professional social networking service LinkedIn, which allows users to contact people outside of their network through InMail for a set monthly fee, explains the BBC.

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The Facebook test is only being conducted with a small group in the U.S., so Canadians shouldn’t see the option yet. However Facebook also rolled out some minor changes to their overall message system, which you should notice immediately:

  • New filters have been added to the Messages inbox. You can now choose between ‘Basic Filtering,’ which allows messages from friends and people Facebook thinks you may know to appear in your Inbox, or ‘Strict Filtering’ which only shows messages from Friends in your Inbox.
  • Messages, emails, chats and text messages with someone are now combined into one ongoing conversation, regardless if they were sent via mobile or desktop.
  • Earlier this month, Android users gained the ability to sign up for Facebook Messenger with only their name and phone number.

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