Facebook tests $1 fee for messages to non-friends

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2011 photo, a Facebook page is seen on a computer in Montpelier, Vt. Following on the popularity of sites like Groupon, Facebook is launching its own daily deals program Tuesday, April 26, 2011 in five U.S. cities. The social network hopes to exploit the peer-to-peer aspect of group buying when it begins testing offers in San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta and Dallas. AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Facebook announced an update to its messaging system Thursday that would include a service charge for users who want to send notes to non-friends on the social network.

The $1 fee would guarantee that messages they send to people they are not connected to arrive in users' inboxes, rather than in an often-ignored folder called "other."

Launched in 2011, the "other" folder is where Facebook routes messages it deems less relevant. Not quite spam, these include messages from people you most likely don't know, based on Facebook's reading of your social connections. Many users ignore this folder.

Now, users will be able to pay $1 to route their messages to non-friends. Facebook said Thursday that it is testing the service with a small percentage of individuals -- not businesses -- in the U.S.

"For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their Inbox," Facebook said in an online post. "For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them."

The company says charging for messages could help discourage spammers. However, the test will only be made available to a small group of people.

"Today we're starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance. 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 said in a press release.

In October, Facebook unveiled another feature that lets users pay if they want more people to read their updates. For $7, users can promote a post to their friends, just as advertisers do.

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