Facebook has announced that it’s testing a new option that means messages can be delivered directly to another user’s inbox, even if they are not connected as friends. The feature would cost the sender a one-off $1 fee, per inbox.
At the moment, messages sent to non-friends may appear in the ‘Other’ folder. This tab was introduced in 2010 and is treated like a spam folder, so messages put there are less likely to be seen.
Users would still be able to mark any unwanted incoming messages as spam, so future messages from the same sender would be filed under the Other tab rather than the inbox. If the recipient doesn’t do this, any further messages will keep going into the inbox. The change is part of a wider update to Facebook Messages, which has new filtering options.
In a blog post, Facebook said, “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."
At the moment, the new feature will only be available for personal messages between individuals in the US. It is similar to LinkedIn, where premium account users can send messages to people who are not in their network.
Facebook’s test could be a way of clamping down on spam by attaching a cost onto being able to send messages to any inbox. However, if a sender doesn’t mind paying the upfront fees, it could enable them to repeatedly send messages to inboxes, although during this trial phase it’s limited to one communication a week, per recipient.
“Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful,” added Facebook.
The experiment is also a potential new revenue stream for the social networking giant. It recently announced a different plan for users to be able to pay to promote a post so that it appears more prominently.