Facebook will never charge you… because it already does

free facebookThe persistent rumor that Facebook will someday charge its users to access the site simply will not die. Since Facebook’s early days, users have clamored around the myth that someday the social network would take captive their years’ worth of photos, comments, friendships, and check-ins. And time after time, the myth has been busted.

Now the announcement of Facebook’s IPO process has resurrected old fears, and yet again the rumors about a paid-for service are insufferably making the rounds. It’s time to extinguish this thing once and for awhile, and this time we have new insight from the company S-1 to lend a little support. 

Facebook says it won’t

This past fall yet another pay-for-Facebook induced craze hit the site as a result of the Timeline announcement. An alleged price grid announcing that there would be different subscription rates to use the site had users in a frenzy – enough so that Facebook actually commented on the rumors. On Facebook’s official profile, the site cleared things up:

sign up“A rumor on the Internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It’s free and always will be.”

And this coincides with the message on the login page.

Sure, things change when a company goes public, but this is completely central to Facebook’s core.  It simply makes no sense, unless you think Mark Zuckerberg and company originally set out to lure in users, trap their data, and make off with it like bandits while simultaneously tricking them into paying for a service they’d been duped by.

Facebook’s entire S-1 is about the user

While we don’t think Facebook is out to reel users into paying, we understand the cynicism when it comes to the site’s intentions. This sort of tension between the site and its users over data-harboring  has left some feeling exploited. Of course, both parties are to blame, and this system has to become an accepted necessary evil of using Facebook.

That said, read the S-1 and you might feel a little better. This excerpt particularly speaks to that, and it might help calm any fears:

“Our culture emphasizes rapid innovation and prioritizes user engagement over short-term financial results. Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

Time and time again Facebook insists it is focused on the user and that this sentiment will remain regardless of who owns what shares.  In fact Facebook points out that even though it’s currently not making them any money, it’s been heavily investing in developing the mobile experience for users. It’s sacrificed in other ways to keep users happy as well:

“From time to time, we have taken actions to reduce the volume of communications from apps to users on Facebook with the objectives of enhancing the user experience, and such actions have reduced distribution from, user engagement with, and our monetization opportunities from apps on Facebook.”

Facebook doesn’t need the money

Facebook isn’t faultless, however, and if the site has stretched your patience and tried your trust one too many times, there’s a much more calculated reason it won’t charge you: it doesn’t need to.

Facebook doesn’t need your money because it’s got something way more valuable – your data. Why would the site risk the ire of its users who are providing it content that it then turns into ad revenue? One of the risk factors Facebook identified is that it’s facing increasing competition, and paid subscriptions would ward off new users and drive them elsewhere. From a business perspective, Facebook has everything it needs in your data.

The company’s profits have been unstoppable since it launched, and its net gain grew 88-percent year over year between 2010 and 2011. It’s got a good thing going, and just because it will bring new shareholders (who will still be minority shareholders) on board doesn’t mean it’s going to mess with success.

What users need to realize is that we do pay. Every time we use an app or click an ad, or even just hit the Like button or fill out our profile information, we’re paying Facebook. 

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