Editor's note: Nicholas Carlson is editor of the blog Silicon Alley Insider, which covers business and technology in Silicon Valley, California.
(CNN) -- Millions of Facebook addicts worldwide worry that someday soon they'll have to pay to use the site.
If you go to Facebook.com and search for the terms "Facebook free" or "Facebook charge," you'll find hundreds of groups with names like, "If 1 Million People Join Before 9th July 2010 Facebook Will Stay Free!" or "If Facebook Charges A Fee We Will Discontinue Using It." Some of these groups have dozens of users, others have thousands.
During a recent press conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said while Facebook users do care about privacy, the question of whether or not Facebook will eventually charge for its service is actually a much bigger concern among the site's 500 million users.
But are these fears justified?
No! Facebook will never charge you to be a member and use the site.
Don't take it from me. Here's Facebook spokesman Larry Yu on the issue:
"We have absolutely no plans to charge for the basic service of using Facebook."
He continues: "Last year we saw a similar rumor circulating that Facebook was going to begin charging $1.99 to use the site, but this year we're hearing that fee increased to $14.99 with the spread of this rumor. We look forward to hearing what Facebook might be rumored to cost for use next year."
If you press Facebook employees on this, they will tell you the reason they will never charge for access is that putting up a paywall runs counter to the company's mission to make the world more open and connected.
But even if you don't buy that idealistic hoopla, you should understand Facebook has a deep profit motive to never charge you for access.
Because Facebook makes its money bringing together as big of an audience as possible and then selling that audience's attention to advertisers. It's a business that works. Facebook should bring in as much as $2 billion in revenue this year. That's more than twice as much as Facebook brought in last year. If Facebook started charging users, its membership would start shrinking fast -- and so would its revenues.
So while Facebook may charge you for certain bonus features, such as gifts for your friends, or credits to play games like Farmville, it will never charge for basic access to the site.
Why then do people worry Facebook might start charging soon? Probably because Facebook users feel like they're getting something valuable for free, and everybody knows there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Just remember: The fact that you keep coming back to Facebook makes it easier for Facebook to sell more ads -- and make more money.
Your lunch isn't free, it's sponsored.
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