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Facebook's $1 messaging feature: Has the social network lost its way?

Facebook (FB) announced a new feature Thursday. For the price of $1 you can now send a message to someone you don't know without fear that the message will go into that person's “Other” folder.

If you didn't know, the “Other” folder is where Facebook sends messages it deems “less relevant.” This apparently includes messages it thinks might be spam, or messages from people you aren't friends with.

Facebook says it uses social and algorithmic signals to decide which messages go to which folder. I was only barely aware that the “Other” folder existed until today, but checking it revealed that I had missed a message or two from a local business that I Liked, but nothing serious.

But back to that $1 fee… the social network said it is running “a small experiment to test of the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance.”

In English, that means anyone can pay a dollar to get a message into your inbox. A message from someone you've never heard of? Inbox. A message Facebook's algorithms flag as spam? Inbox.

The company said the test is for situation where neither the social or algorithmic signals work. Their examples include messaging someone you've seen give a speech, but aren't friends with “if you want to message someone about a job opportunity.”

I have no idea why email wouldn't be the preferred method of contact in either of these cases. Public speakers who want to be contacted generally publish an email address and help wanted ads always include contact information. Someone who managed to dig up my Facebook profile to ask me for a job wouldn't be doing themselves any favors.

Bobby Raines

Bobby Raines is the Managing Editor of the Market Intelligence Center. He has degrees in Mass Communications and History from Emory & Henry College. Bobby worked at a mid-sized daily newspaper before making a switch to covering the financial industry full time in the years leading up to the financial crisis. He has been a member of the Fresh Brewed Media team since 2011 and has served as a writer and analyst. You can write to him at braines@marketintelligencecenter.com or follow him on Twitter: @BRatMICenter.