Facebook sure is a different company now that it's on the stock exchange. Now that it's a for-profit entity with stockholders, the company has completely changed course, and it's having a serious impact on user experience. News feeds are now loaded with ads, and even video ads could be en route. But ads are a fact of life for the media business. That said, the company's newest trial may cross more than a few lines. A recent blog post from Facebook notes that it's trying out a new messaging option for a select few in the U.S.
Right now, Facebook
users have an Inbox and an Others box, two places where Facebook "emails" are filtered into. As of today, Facebook is "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." In other words, advertisers, companies and total strangers will be able to pay an undisclosed amount to slip a message into your Inbox -- without your permission and without you even having to have them connected as a friend. Yikes.
Facebook is playing this up as a way for common people to have more direct access to strangers they may see at a convention, or hiring managers looking for folks who are super dedicated. But on the surface, it sure feels creepy. Digital communications have largely been a level playing field up until this. You can email someone regardless of your wealth or status, and there's no way for people with excess cash to get at the top of your inbox. But with this new tactic, that's changing.
This message routing feature is only for personal messages between individuals in the U.S. In this test, the number of messages a person can have routed from their Other folder to their Inbox will be limited to a maximum of one per week. Still, Facebook promises to evolve the service as the test plows on, so don't be shocked if you start getting notes in your Inbox from people or companies you don't even know.