If you start noticing a few more messages in your Facebook inbox in the coming weeks from people you don't know, here's why.
Facebook is testing a new option to charge users in the United States a one-time fee of $US1 to send a message to another user's inbox who they aren't friends with.
Currently, if you send a Facebook message to someone you're not connected to, it may end up in the 'Other' tab, an oft-overlooked subsection of the inbox that basically serves as a spam folder, depending on whether you have mutual connections. With the new option, however, you would be able to pay a premium to ensure the message ends up in the main inbox where it is likely to be seen by the recipient.
Facebook said users will have the option to mark the incoming message as spam and move it to the 'Other' tab, which means the sender will be unable to reach their inbox afterwards. However, if the recipient doesn't take any action, the sender will be able to continue messaging that user's inbox an unlimited number of times after paying the one-time fee.
"Today we're starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance," Facebook said in a blog post. "This test will give a small number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to the Inbox rather than the Other folder of a recipient that they are not connected with."
The feature has only been turned on in the US so far, but the company added: "We'll continue to iterate and evolve Facebook Messages over the coming months."
Facebook is billing the change as an attempt to crack down on spam by seeing if "imposing a financial cost on the sender" serves as a deterrent to sending unwanted messages. Yet, it seems just as likely that it could lead to an increase spam, as anyone from a marketer to your ex-girlfriend could potentially use the option to flood your inbox with unwanted messages.
For Facebook, the move appears to be an attempt at testing out a potential new revenue source. LinkedIn offers a similar option, which lets users with premium accounts message those outside their network. Facebook has tried to monetise anything and everything on the site, recently announcing an option for average users to pay $US7 to promote a post on the social network so that more people see it.
The new pay-to-message option was announced as part of a larger set of changes to Facebook Messages, including new filtering options to determine whether you mostly see messages from friends or from friends and related contacts you may know.
Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.
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