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Facebook tests paid messages to strangers

Heather Kelly, CNN
New changes to Facebook's messaging system include the ability to set filters on which messages you see.
New changes to Facebook's messaging system include the ability to set filters on which messages you see.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Facebook updates its messaging feature to add new inbox filters
  • A test feature will allow people to pay to send messages to strangers
  • The new feature could help cut down on inbox spam

(CNN) -- How much would you pay to contact a stranger? Facebook is sprucing up its messaging system, and the most interesting change is a move to charge people to send a message to someone outside their network.

Most important messages go straight to your inbox on Facebook. But there's a second class of messages, including potential spam and notes from people not in your network, that the site's algorithms deem "less relevant."

These unlucky missives are dropped in the little-known "Other" folder, where they will often spend the remainder of their digital existence unseen, unread and unloved.

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Facebook is now testing a solution to help messages avoid this limbo, the company announced in a blog post Thursday. People can pay to circumvent the dreaded "Other" folder and have their messages show up directly in the recipient's inbox. The cost to send one message will be a dollar, according to AllThingsD.

In a post announcing the changes, Facebook points out that this could be helpful for people who want to contact someone about a job or reach out to anyone else they may not have a personal connection to. Charging could also help cut down on unwanted spam, according to Facebook.

"Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful," says the post.

The "inbox delivery test" will be available only to select people using Facebook in the U.S. for now. Companies won't have access to the feature at this time, and people are limited to one paid outgoing message a week to minimize abuse.

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The social network is also rolling out new filtering options for the inbox. If you select Basic Filtering, the usual messages from friends and people in your extended network will go to the inbox. With Strict Filtering, it will be "mostly" limited to messages from friends.

The update also allows members to receive messages from the Messenger for Android app, a mutual friend throwing a party and anyone with your @facebook.com e-mail address.

Facebook is constantly trying to find new revenue streams, testing out services such as paying to promote posts and Facebook Gifts. The pay message option is being tested out for a few months, but if it is popular, it could be an interesting way for the site to address spam and make some money at the same time.

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