Yes, Facebook IS Charging For Some Messages, But It’s No Big Deal

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You may have heard about Facebook’s new pilot program that’s charging users one dollar to send certain messages. Yes, it’s a real thing, and no, it’s nothing you need to get angsty about.

FB Message

Psst! I can get your message past the bouncer and behind the velvet rope.

The Dreaded, Mysterious ‘Other’ Folder

If you use Facebook you may already know that if you send a private message to another user who isn’t one of your Facebook ‘Friends’, that message goes into the cyber black hole known as the “Other” folder in the recipient’s Messages tab on Facebook. Many people weren’t even aware the “Other” folder existed until this recent tempest in a teapot, because Facebook doesn’t alert you in any way when a new message is delivered to your “Other” folder.

Facebook, ever on the lookout for new revenue streams, realized people might be willing to pay to route those non-Friend messages into the recipient’s Facebook Messages In Box folder, where the recipient will be alerted to the message, instead of the dreaded ‘Other’ folder.

So Facebook launched this pilot program, and now a small portion of Facebook users in the U.S. are starting to see a new pop-up when they try to message a non-Friend, prompting them to either pay to send the message to the VIP room (AKA, In Box folder) or just send it as usual. And people are really freaking out about this, mostly because they didn’t know about it until the first time they saw the popup, and they don’t understand it.

Hey, I didn’t know about it or understand it at first either, but I’ve done some research and now I can confidently say: for the great majority of Facebookers, this pilot program will have virtually zero impact on you, your use of Facebook, or your privacy settings on Facebook.

Keep Calm And Facebook On

Didja notice how, in the pop-up, you still have the option to send the message to a non-Friend the normal way, where it’ll go to the Other folder? It’s kind of annoying that by default, the pay-to-play option is selected in the popup so you have to purposely click on the ‘Just send this message to [the] Other folder’ option to avoid being charged, but still: it’s not like Facebook has taken away the option for users to just maintain the status quo with their non-Friend messages.

How Often Do You Message Non-Friends, Anyway?

I have never messaged a non-Friend on Facebook. If I want to communicate and share with someone who’s not already a Facebook Friend on FB, I ‘friend’ them. If they don’t accept, I take that to mean they don’t want my communications and sharing, and that’s the end of that. I suspect this is how MOST people use Facebook and the messaging function, and if that’s true, then most of us will never see or need the new pop-up.

But OMG, What About SPAM and Advertising?!

If anything, if this pilot program becomes a full-fledged thing, it will cut down on SPAM. Spammers are only as prolific and omnipresent as they are in your email and on blog/message board comment sections because it’s either very cheap or totally free for them to litter our lives with their unwanted advertising messages. If you check your Other folder on FB, you may find there’s a lot of SPAM in it and if so, you’re probably glad that junk was routed to the Other folder. Spammers aren’t willing to pay a buck a message to get out of Other folder purgatory.

Advertisers aren’t willing to pay $1 per user per advertising message either. Considering that a 2-5% success rate with direct mail / direct email ad campaigns is considered successful, advertisers would be paying $100 to get 2-5 ad responses if they just start carpet-bombing Facebookers with ads using this new pop-up. Maybe it’s worthwhile for high-end products, but for any product where the net profit is less than $95 or thereabouts per item sold, the advertising would cost more than the advertiser stands to earn with the ad.

But OMG, What About Stalkers?!

Along with this change (which is a pilot program, remember), FB is rolling out new message filtering options that will enable users to proactively route messages from specific Facebookers to the Other folder, or to custom folders the user has set up, so you can choose never to see messages from Facebookers you specify.

Also, while FB hasn’t specifically stated this in the (very limited) information they’ve released about the new program, there’s no reason to think anyone you’ve blocked on FB would be able to get around the block with this new feature.

The Magic Of The Delete Option

But let’s say some advertisers DO take advantage of this new thing to spam your FB In Box, or that creepy guy from your old dorm suddenly starts messaging you and/or getting around a block you’ve set. In that case, you can always just DELETE the unwanted messages. You don’t even have to read them first. Just mouse over the unwanted message in the list, and click the little “x” in the lower right-hand corner to blow it away. Problem solved.

One Caveat – Beware The Malware Developers

Malware developers have already swooped in to take advantage of users’ confusion about this pilot program to —what else?— make money. They’re fooling users who misunderstand this new program into enabling malicious FB apps that charge them $1 to send a message to ANY FB user, including the user’s FB friends.

Remember: the pilot program is only about charging to send messages to non-friends on Facebook, it does not charge you to send messages to your FB friends. At least one of my FB friends mistakenly enabled one of these malicious apps, so be careful out there. If you start seeing pop-ups trying to charge for sending messages to your FB friends, check your Apps settings and App permissions; you may find you’ve unwittingly enabled a malicious app.


Now, can we put the Facebook Alert status indicator back to green, and get on with our lives?


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