Facebook released updates to its messages and inbox feature Thursday, most notably testing out a feature that would allow users to pay to have their messages reach another person’s inbox, even if they aren’t linked on the network.
Just as users can now pay to promote their newsfeed stories, a user could pay to have his or her message arrive in another person’s primary inbox, as opposed to the “other” inbox, where messages deemed less relevant by Facebook’s social and algorhithim indicators would go instead. The company explained the test, which is rolling out to a small percentage of users, in a blog post Thursday:
“Today we’re starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance. This test will give a small number of people the option to pay to have a message routed to the Inbox rather than the Other folder of a recipient that they are not connected with.
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.”
For instance, while users will mostly only see messages from friends and friends of friends in their primary inbox, if someone wanted to contact them for business purposes but had no friends in common, that person could pay to have the message delivered to the primary inbox rather than the “other” inbox. AllThingsD reports that the messages could cost only a dollar.
The company also announced new filtering that lets users pick which messages will land in their primary and “other” inboxes. With “basic filtering,” users will see messages from friends and friends of friends in their primary inbox, and people who turn on “strict filtering” will see “mostly” messages from friends, the company wrote.
The update comes as Facebook works to improve and expand Messenger and the integration of a user’s contacts and @facebook.com email address further into daily communication, while also figuring out how to monetize for the service. It’s an interesting question that the company will test out: Would you pay to improve the chances that your email gets read?