Facebook started testing a messaging system today that would allow users to pay in order to ensure that the recipient of their message actually sees it. Facebook has also changed the privacy settings on the messaging system to a “dynamic” model that allows all relevant messages through to a user’s inbox. With the old system, there was no guarantee that you would see message sent to you by someone who wasn’t your friend on the site.
The old privacy settings on Facebook’s inbox allowed you to choose broad categories of people to receive messages from: everyone, friends only, or friends of friends. If someone sent you a message that didn’t fall into one of these categories, the message would be routed to the little-used and often unchecked “Other” inbox.” Check yours right now; you probably have dozens of messages that you didn’t even know you received.
The new privacy settings will still allow you to choose whose messages you see, though with the new dynamic filtering system, Facebook reserves the right to send you messages from outside of your selected parameters if they feel that it is particularly relevant to you. Facebook is, of course, also testing a feature among a very small percentage of U.S. users that would allow users to pay $1 or a similarly small fee to guarantee a message reaches someone’s inbox. “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,” Facebook said.
The theory behind the monetization strategy is a sound one; it could cut down on spam messages to users with more lax privacy settings while ensuring that users with strict privacy settings see important messages that are sent their way. However, it also opens up the unfortunate possibility that anyone with a dollar can send you a message, something that spammers and marketers are sure to take note of.
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