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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Wall-Street Investors?

How do you make money from a free service? It's a question Mark Zuckerberg and countless others have been asking themselves for years. Facebook has already been criticised for (its perhaps over use) of advertising on the site, which is the traditional means of internet income nowadays, and despite implementing other minor avenues of possible income such as the option of buying "Facebook coins" (which will help you progress in games etc) the social network giant is still in need of revenue.

With Facebook's privatisation bringing the added pressure of shareholders wants and needs to the table (along with a shed full of money mind) the challenge has been set to deliver an enjoyable, successful and profitable social network service to consumers which also justifies its shareholders investments with healthy returns. So what has Zuckerberg got up his sleeve? Well a new reworking of the websites design is in the process of being implemented, which hopefully will eliminate issues users have with the amount of advertising on the site. However today a more controversial plan was announced. Facebook will be launching a new test scheme which charges users if they want to contact people outside their circle of friends, including celebrities.

In an announcement Facebook have said "it is a way of inhibiting spamming for famous people as paid-for messages go straight to the recipient's inbox rather than the "other" folder which receives all communication from people outside a user's circle of friends." The fees are calculated using a "Fame Algorithm" which establishes how much a message to a particular person is worth. For example if you are judged to be in the standard price bracket (home to famous faces such as Miranda Hart and Bill Bailey) then one message will cost 71p, however for a message to Olympic diver Tom Daley you will have to shell out £10.68! Bare in mind this doesn't guarantee you a response of any kind, just the knowledge that the message will appear in his inbox.

Tom Daley
Tom Daley - £10.68 a Message.
This trial, which is currently only being tested through a small percentage of users, seems to be misguided and ill informed about the easiness of interacting with celebrities on other platforms. Twitter seems to be the most obvious example of this so today I sent Tom a quick message which on Facebook would have cost me over a tenner.

He hasn't replied...which i suppose is an incentive to pay Facebook to have my message placed in a prime position in Toms inbox, therefore increasing the odds of a reply. Personally I'd rather take my chances with the free alternative, or if I was really desperate to get in touch with him buy a stamp and send a letter to his pool. That would still be more than ten times cheaper than what Facebook is offering, this would also allow me to include some werthers originals inside the envelope and maybe (if he's lucky) tape a £2 coin to the letter which he could spend on whatever he likes.

This to me feels like a tax on fandom, and its a tax that won't work. No doubt celebrities like Tom Daley receive hundreds if not thousands of messages everyday from all kinds of social networking sites,  just hoping for a reply or a bit of acknowledgement from their hero in speedos. But it's unimaginable that the same amount will pay for this privilege! In fact if even 1% of this number decide to pay for a message I will be shocked.

All in all it looks like it'll be back to the drawing board sooner rather than later for Mr. Zuckerberg and co. Anyway I'll leave you with a reminder of why its important you only share so much with your friends on Facebook!

Alex Jones

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