Facebook Lets You Send Messages to Strangers for $1

It would appear that one of the early dreams of social media -- making it possible to meet anyone, virtually, online -- is dead. Or more precisely, the dream is still alive; it will just cost you a buck.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has begun testing a system that allows members to send messages to people they don’t know (i.e., people not include in their immediate social network) for $1. The payment allows the user to send the message to a stranger’s personal Inbox, rather than having it relegated to the seldom-checked Other folder, which many members basically use as a SPAM basket.

It’s pretty easy to imagine who is going to use the new service: marketers, and maybe some desperate singles looking for love. Either way, it doesn’t exactly seem like an enhancement of the Facebook user experience. And the rationale presented by Facebook is a little, well, Orwellian. You see, it’s actually all about decreasing the number of irrelevant messages that are sent on the network: “[I]mposing 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.” Never mind that they are getting paid, and that the irrelevant messages now go to your Inbox instead of your SPAM folder; it’s actually making things better.

Compared to a lot of other folks, I think I have been pretty relaxed about Facebook’s, erm, many “innovations” with an eye to making money. After all, it’s a for-profit company, the terms of service are there for all to see, we all signed up voluntarily, and we can all quit anytime we like. That said, between the paid messages and the earlier launch of a service that allows you to pay to promote your posts, I’m starting to wonder whether the world’s dominant social network is finally going to screw the pooch.

Of course Facebook is allowed to charge advertisers for communicating with its members -- but this would appear to be openly disregarding the wishes of users trying to block unwanted messages. To my mind, that risks some serious blowback against both Facebook and any brand marketers which use the service. Or am I too dire in my predictions? 

4 comments about "Facebook Lets You Send Messages to Strangers for $1".
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  1. Jill Kennedy from Manka Bros., December 20, 2012 at 7:51 p.m.

    The more they try to become a legitimate business, the more screwed up and irrelevant they become. The beginning of the end started a couple of years ago but really accelerated after the IPO.

  2. Noah Wieder from SearchBug, Inc., December 20, 2012 at 8:34 p.m.

    What am I missing, why is this an issue? We know FB is a for profit company and they have to show revenue grow and increase EPS.

    Linkedin charges $25 for basic membership which includes a guaranteed "inmail" response or you don't pay for that one (you get a replacement inmail).

    $1 per message on FB is still cheaper then $25 per month for 10 inmails on Linkedin.

    Both options are cheaper than hiring a private investigator to locate a cell phone number, but a phone call still works better (unless of course it's considered harassment or stalking, then, neither is a good idea).

  3. Ted Rubin from The Rubin Organization / Return on Relationship, December 20, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.

    Facebook is so far from irrelevant... possibly becoming more relevant every day at this point.

  4. Kevin Bullard from ILFUSION Creative, January 8, 2013 at 8:58 a.m.

    Yes, more spam from the kind folks @ fb...

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