It’s a problem which Mark Zuckerberg promised investors he would tackle – how to make more money from the Facebook site.
And now, a new trial has been launched to charge users to send messages.
Don’t worry though, you’re not going to have to pay to chat to your friends. Facebook’s new experiment is looking at whether people would be prepared to pay $1 to send messages to the inboxes of those who aren’t in their usual social circle.
At the moment, your Facebook messages arrive into two folders – your inbox and “other” folder, with messages from friends and friends of friends going straight into your inbox.
But Facebook is now testing whether people would be prepared to pay to deliver a message straight to someone’s inbox who they are not friends with.
In a blog post, the social network says it is conducting a “small experiment” to decide whether “economic signals” can be used to determine the relevance of a message to you.
The blog explains: “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.”
Facebook says it is making the move after commentators and researchers noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender might be the “most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate deliver of messages that are relevant and useful.”
The test, it says is designed to address situations where Facebook wouldn’t drop a message into someone’s inbox because it would not determine there was any connection between recipient and sender. It uses the examples of wanting to message someone you have heard speak at an event or to send a message about a possible job opportunity.
Lots of Facebook users don’t bother checking their other box, so mail sent there can simply lie unread.
The facility to separate messages was introduced in 2011 when Facebook said: “It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. It’s not that those other messages aren’t important, but one of them is more meaningful.”
At the moment, the new trial is just being conducted in the US and there is a limit on the number of messages a person will have routed from their other folder, to a maximum of one per week. Hopefully, this will discourage big brands from taking up the option and bombarding Facebook users with commercial messages.
The idea is similar to one already adopted by LinkedIn, used primarily for social networking among business contacts. LinkedIn’s InMail feature lets users get in touch with people they aren’t connected to for a set monthly fee, a useful feature for those looking for extra work or contacts.
The new trial comes as Facebook has announced new filters to help you manage your inbox in the way you want to. There are now two clear options, basic and strict filtering, which allow you to see messages from friends and your wider social circle, or just from friends.