Facebook's new Android Messenger lets people create an account with just their name and phone number.
(Credit: Facebook) A new revamp of Facebook Messages is pointing the way to let people buy access to your inbox on the social network.
In a "small experiment" starting today, Facebook said it'll be evaluating the "usefulness of economic signals" to determine what messages, from those with whom they have no connection, might be relevant to a given user.
"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 blog post. And it gave a couple of examples of messages that might count as relevant and worth paying for:
This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient. 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. For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them. The cost to the sender, in this experiment: $1.
A Facebook spokesman said that the paid-message feature is being rolled out to a small percentage of users in the U.S. who will receive, at most, one of these messages per week. "Brands can't use this feature -- not at the moment," he said.
To further that message of reassurance, Facebook said that "several commentators and researchers" think a fee will keep unwanted messages out and encourage relevant messages.
But if this feature, similar to the way LinkedIn does its InMail service, proves to have legs, it could become a staple -- and another form of revenue for a now public company eager for more ways to make money.
Also today, Facebook said that it is fine-tuning the filters in Messages, its version of e-mail.