$100 Zuck Message Is An A/B Test Of Different Messaging Price Points, Not A Sign Of Facebook Desperation

Would you pay to get Mark Zuckerberg to read your email? If so, how much? That’s what Facebook wants to find out, apparently. Some Facebook users are able to send the CEO an email that reaches his main inbox within Facebook’s messaging system for a cool $100, Mashable has discovered, in a report that is now making its way to mainstream press including The Wall St. Journal and The Guardian, among others.

No, Facebook is not that desperate for cash – it’s just testing some outrageous price points in order to figure out how high prices have to be to keep spam out of your inbox.

The ability to pay to send a message that reaches another Facebook user’s inbox is a feature the social networking site first announced last month.

The feature is specifically designed for communicating with other Facebook members who you’re not friends with, the company said. Facebook recently rolled out changes to its inbox privacy settings, which had previously allowed fairly strict control over whose messages you would see (“friends,” “friends of friends,” “everyone,” etc.). With the newer, more flexible filtering options, users will either mostly see messages from friends and other people they may know (“Basic Filtering”), or just friends (“Strict Filtering”), TechCrunch’s Josh Constine explained at the time.

The key thing about these earlier changes is that they now allow Facebook to use its own relevance filtering technology to better determine if there are messages that probably should hit your inbox, and then send them your way. Under the previous system, you may have missed these messages. For example, if your settings were “friends only,” when one non-friend and a few of your friends were messaging with you in a group, that may have ended up in your “Other” inbox – a section of the inbox most Facebook users rarely check.

Alongside these changes, Facebook introduced the ability to message non-friends by paying a small fee.

But how small? That was yet to be determined, though it was said prices may start around a dollar.

Of course, the Internet industry has long since debated that charging senders even a tiny fee per email could cut down on the amount of spam that reaches our email inboxes. Or you could just charge people yourself. But Facebook’s email system is a bit different, as it’s not its own standalone, fully-fledged email product, but rather a feature that has evolved over time from a need to communicate privately with other Facebook users.

While a fee of a dollar may make sense for a large majority of Facebook users, there are some VIPs, like CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where the price would need to be much, much, much higher. This is what the new experiment is about, and it’s not necessarily going to remain up-and-running indefinitely – especially with all the attention it’s getting now.

“I think the test makes it clear Facebook will need highly dynamic price points for this feature,” says Constine, TechCrunch’s resident Facebook expert. “It may need to look at friend counts, friend requests, subscriber counts, profile views, how often a famous person gets people trying to contact them, or even use some external reputation database to determine who it needs to jack up the paid messaging price for.”

So how much would you pay to send Mr. Zuckerberg an email that’s more likely to be read? And what would you say, once you had his attention? Unfortunately, those are questions we may never really know the answer to.

Image credit: yes, Mashable