Facebook is conducting “a small experiment” that gives selected users the option to pay to send a message to the primary inbox of another Facebook user even if they aren’t “friends.”

But how much would they have to pay, exactly?

In its post announcing the experiment, the company didn’t say what it would charge for the messages, but many sites reported that it would be $1 each.

Well, how about $100 instead? That’s the offer that television talent agent Micah Johnson says he saw on Facebook when he tried to send a message to a non-friend.

Johnson provided the screenshot above, plus another confirming that it was on the Facebook.com domain, and not a spoof site. It came up when Johnson tried to send a message to a fellow entertainment agent who has hit the limit for friends on Facebook.

Just to be clear, I’m not the Todd to whom he was trying to send the message, although this does make my head spin, thinking about the revenue possibilities for GeekWire. (Kidding.)

Under normal circumstances, a Facebook message to a non-friend would go into that person’s little-noticed “Other” folder, reducing the chances that it would be read. The idea behind the test is to help people connect in cases where it might not make sense to be Facebook friends, while making the system tough, economically, for spammers to abuse.

But $100 per message? Would anyone pay that? Maybe that’s what Facebook is trying to learn.

I’ve contacted Facebook to find out if the $100 option is a glitch, part of the experiment, or something else.

Johnson writes via email, “When I clicked on ‘send message’ – this is the screen I got. I couldn’t believe it!  $100 to send a message that would go directly to them instead of their ‘other’ folder? This is the first I’ve come across this  — and again — would have thought it a scam if I wasn’t on the direct Facebook URL.”

Charging to send messages to non-friends isn’t unprecedented in the world of social networks, with LinkedIn’s premium InMail features serving as a prime example.

If Facebook does actually try this on a wide scale, Seattle attorney William Carleton points out that the company should share the revenue with the target recipent. I’m thinking that the tech world’s traditional 70/30 split, in favor of the recipient, would be about right.

Comments

  • Guest

    Amazon SES charges $100 to send 1,000,000 messages by e-mail. What, exactly, makes an “f-mail” message worth more than $0.001?

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottmoore.seattle Scott Moore

    Facebook, desperate for revenue, is determined to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

    Facebook has also famously started charging fan pages to reach their own fans, which has rightfully angered many users. Here’s the scenario. First Facebook convinces businesses that they should “enhance” their online presence with a social media presence. It then convinces the business to purchase advertising, whose sole purpose is to increase the business fan base, so that the business can “reach more users”. (I’ll admit I fell for this)

    At first, as a small business owner, I was pleased to see the number of people following my business increase, and was happy to pay for advertising for a larger fan base that I could then reach with posts. But now that I’ve gone through the time and expense of finding targeted users who would be interested in my posts, I find that my posts only reach 10% of my fan base, which I’ve paid for. If I want to reach all of my fans, after paying to get them to follow me, I now have to pay again for them to see each of my posts.

    The result? Facebook lost all of my business. I’ll not give them another red cent. First, I’ve found the advertising to be ineffective, and secondly I’ve been lied to. Because why would I pay to get a fan base so that I can pay to reach them, when really all I needed to do in the first place was place keyword ads to all users?

    Facebook’s approach here is borderline criminal, and at a very minimum disingenuous and insulting. I’ve noticed lately when I’m unhappy with Facebook I have these Freudian slips and accidentally call them Myspace, and we all know how that ended.

  • NG

    I just tried this and it shows me just $1.00 and not $100.00 as mentioned in this article.

  • Bill

    Even at $100, that is a bargain! I would pay 10 times that if I could rub it in my GF’s face that I am now dating a hottie much hotter than her, and only 3% stupider.

  • http://twitter.com/fijiaaron Aaron Evans

    It’ll be measured in CPM. You bid based on Facebook “social graph” criteria to send x amount of spam per cent. You’ll probably have to buy a “premium” account and the more your account costs the better targeted your spam will be.

  • http://www.postplanner.com/ Scott Ayres

    This is insane. Looks like if someone has over 5000 followers the fee is $100!

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