Would you pay to Facebook message a celebrity?

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 9.19.45 PMFacebook is on a streak rolling out new features like emoticons and whatever Facebook Home is exactly, so it’s not surprising to hear that the social network is testing a new feature in the U.K. that makes you pay if you want to message a famous person. Or, I should say, a famous person you don’t know – if you’re already close personal friends then it will continue being free. 

If you want to contact famous author and weirdly lecherous person Salman Rushdie, you have to pony up around $15. Lesser known British celebs aren’t as expensive to get in touch with – if they’re D list or lower, it’s just a dollar. So if you want to send a message to Prince Harry’s girlfriend Cressida Jones, it won’t set you back much, though we can’t imagine what you’d say to her. 

This isn’t the first time Facebook tested a pay-to-message feature. The first round actually happened in the U.S., where Facebook tested a way to let eager messengers reach people they hadn’t friended yet (this feature is still available to the select beta testers, for the record). If you aren’t connected to someone on Facebook and they message you, it gets sorted into the “Other” folder, where it likely sits unread for all eternity. In case you didn’t know you have an “Other” folder – you do. And it’s mostly spam, but there is the occasional note from a non-friend who may have wanted to read. 

These messages had varying pricetags as well. For your Average Joe, it’s usually a dollar. However, for Zuckerberg, people have to pay $100 to land in his inbox. I tested to see if that feature would pop up for me, but I’m not in the testing group. Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 9.08.20 PM

And now, in addition to the U.K., Facebook is testing the feature in 36 other countries. 

The fact that Facebook is fiddling around with a new way to make money is totally in line with the company’s recent focus on keeping advertisers happy and their business monetized, but this particular approach is a little strange considering how the network is adopting many of Twitter’s attributes, including hashtags. One of Twitter’s biggest draws is how you can communicate with anyone you want, including huge celebrities – but if Facebook starts charging people to reach out to their famous cohorts, it will make it harder to communicate with these in-demand people than it is on Twitter. So why would you bother spending money to message someone on Facebook who you could tweet at for free?


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