The message on Facebook's homepage is that signing up will always be free - so users are balking at a new feature that allows them to pay to boost their updates.
New Zealand, where 1.4 million Facebook accounts are based, is being used to trial "highlighting", which is thought to be the social networking site's first attempt to make money from postings by regular users.
It comes as it is gearing up for a public listing which is expected to value the company at about US$90 billion (NZ$115b).
Technology writer Josh Constine, on website techcrunch.com, said a "test group" had been selected for the trial, with prices ranging from free to a couple of dollars. "Highlighted posts may appear higher in the news feed, stay visible for longer, and appear to more friends," he said.
It appeared to be getting trialled in New Zealand, a "more- isolated but English-speaking location where Facebook seems to test features it doesn't want too many people to know about".
Wellington-based promoter and party planner Anna Dean said it seemed like "a rather wearying development in terms of the monetisation of people's relationships with their friends".
Advertisements already on Facebook were less insidious because they were clearly advertisements. "Personally I'd feel a bit creeped out if someone had paid to tell me about their amazing new pair of pants."
Artist Tao Wells, who uses Facebook prolifically for work and personal reasons, described the move as the "beginning of the end" for Facebook, warning it could be the push people needed to switch to competing social media.
"What this is really creating is a paid advertisement on the page and that's going against the whole nature of the machine."
Self-described "extreme" Facebook user Wayan Rosie, who uses the site mainly for personal reasons, said he could see businesses using the feature but would not do it himself.
Avid Facebook user Jo Eaton said it was hard to tell what "highlighting" achieved, as it did not noticeably boost posts.
Web commentator Mike O'Donnell said as Facebook looked to go public this was one of the ways it would look to boost revenue.
While it could get traction from people using it for business marketing, it could also be counter- productive as boring posts could get undue boosts.
Tumblr.com, also a social networking site, introduced highlighting earlier this year but it was too early to judge its success.
Facebook spokeswoman Mia Garlick confirmed highlighting was a new "feature" the company was testing. "We're constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends," she said.
Facebook was trialling the feature at a range of different prices, including offering it "free".
- © Fairfax NZ News