May 11, 2012, 6:14 PM — A little report in a New Zealand newspaper is getting a ton of attention over on this side of Middle Earth. It seems that Facebook is testing out a scheme in which ordinary users can pay for the privilege of promoting their own posts.
According to the Fairfax NZ News, an unnamed Facebooker in Whangarei was posted something to his Facebook page, then was startled to be asked if he wouldn’t mind paying $1.80 to “make sure friends see this.”
Thinking it a scam, he contacted Facebook to find out what’s what. Nope, no scam, says Mia Garlick, manager of communications and policy at Facebook’s Australian outpost. Per the report:
"We're constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends," she said.
Facebook was trialling the feature at a range of different price points, including offering it "free", she said. This means that during the trial members may be asked to pay different amounts, or nothing, to use it.
Next, Facebook will enter the protection racket: Pay us five fins or that cute baby picture you just posted will be sleepin’ wid da fishes.
In the days leading up to its IPO – rumored to be hitting late next week – Facebook seems to be pulling out all the stops showing how it can make bundles of cash in ways other than selling ads against our Likes. For example, along with the new App Center, it announced this week that it may soon cost actual money to annoy your Facebook friends with games like CityVille and Words With Friends. And earlier today Facebook clarified its priva—err, I mean Data Use Policy -- to make it clear that it intends to use your Facebook data to display ads outside of Facebook, essentially taking Google head on in the ad biz.
It seems clear that Facebook is taking the doubts that its business model can sustain Google-like growth very seriously in the days leading up to Stockapalooza. From a privacy perspective, the question is, how desperate will Facebook be for revenue in the coming years? At what point will it decide to sell user data directly? That’s the biggest worry with the company going public.