Barry Eitel

Facebook fleshed out a new money-making scheme last week that, if Mark Zuckerberg and company decide to keep around, could significantly change how users interact with the social media site.

If you want to send a message to someone you aren’t friends with, you’ll have to open up your wallet.

Since December, various media outlets have claimed that users have been getting charged $1 to send messages to strangers—or friends that just aren’t Facebook friends yet. The company described the system as a test.

You can still opt to send a free message, but your note will go into the receiver’s “Other” folder, a spam-filled dump that most people never check. To get into the inbox and earn a notification/any real chance your message will be read, you have to shell out the dollar.

And, depending on the person, you may have to pay a great deal more. The social media site claims it’s playing with “some extreme price points” in order to see “what works to filter spam.”

What’s an extreme price point? Well, to send a personal message to Zuckerberg griping about Facebook’s poorly disguised cash grabs, you’ll pay a cool $100.

Some are also claiming that the $100 digital postage stamp price is popping up for non-famous users, as well.

Whatever the real parameters of Facebook’s experiment, the testing seems to have only raised the ire of users and the media.

“We knew Facebook was eager for new revenue streams. We just didn't know they were this eager,” wrote Chris Taylor for Mashable (emphasis his).

“Facebook really is dead set on wringing money out of you,” lamented Kate Solomon for TechRadar, “one way or another.”

As the testing ramps up, Facebook could find themselves in a new PR disaster—maybe their worst yet. Opening up to high school students, constantly tinkering with the newsfeed, trying out potential “stalker” apps—the reaction to these was loud, but the fallout from this new monetization attempt could be deafening.

For advertisers, the experiment could mean a cheap way to reach new customer bases. If the feature takes off with businesses, though, it could also mean inboxes get so oversaturated with ads that users stop paying attention.

The auctioning of inboxes to the highest bidder is bound to have some negative reactions from Facebookers, so it will probably be smartest to hang back from the feature until the smoke clears. Then advertisers can make a smart decision.

There could very well be upsides to the new charges, however. It will at least make drunk messaging ex-girlfriends less appealing.

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