Facebook to charge for blind messaging: Is this the end of horizontal networking?

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For social media platforms like Facebook, which is currently used by a 10th of humankind; spam is a constant and critical factor.  Therefore most Facebook users prefer to only receive messages from friends and followers, choosing to block or delete messages from those outside their social group. Companies who also use the network to try to reach their clients through newsletters also suffer from spam ads, whose aim could be ‘phishing’ or disseminating fraudulent information.

In response to this, as well as internal pressure to make Facebook more profitable, the social media giant is now testing various methods to achieve quality over quantity when it comes to marketing as well as ‘personal’ messages. One of these methods is a scale of fees charged to users who want to reach people they are not directly connected with. The fee is calculated from the number of friends and followers the recipient has (i.e. if you want to write to a public figure or a celebrity with plenty of followers, it would be more costly). Facebook claims the measure would prevent spam, but it would also undoubtedly be a new income method for the world’s largest social media platform.

In terms of advertising, it will be interesting to see if and how companies are charged for their messaging activities and if the cost of other advertising methods will be affected. For smaller companies and businesses it could also be harder to reach potential clients if such companies have to pay fees per message. Also, the number of friends and activities a user has does not always indicates the real ‘value’ of that user, with certain companies on the network offering users the chance to boost their number of friends and followers for money.

Facebook knows that it is not just one huge network; it is a network build out of an infinite number of different networks and connections, all used for different purposes. If there was an initiative which would limit spam, it would be welcomed. However, by giving Facebook users the ‘choice’ to buy connections, horizontal networking could be lost, creating a class society within Facebook, with networking becoming intrusive when it is bought, and not earned.

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