December 23, 2012, 7:07 AM — Facebook last week announced a trial that could let paid advertisers directly message users' in-boxes, which have traditionally been held for messages from friends.
The move is seen as the latest effort by the company to monetize its hugely popular social network, which now includes more than 1 billion active monthly users globally.
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The news is part of a broader set of changes Facebook made to its messaging platform today, including new privacy settings. Users can now choose from two message settings, basic or strict. In the basic settings, friends, friends of friends and Android Messenger users who do not have a Facebook account can message users to their in-box. A "strict" allows the user to select who they can receive a message from.
Facebook's messages are broken into two categories, the in-box and an "other" folder. The messaging platform is designed to "get the most relevant messages into your in-box and put less relevant messages into your other folder." Facebook uses algorithms to determine relevance and where the message should be placed, for example, whether the sender is a friend, friend of a friend, or spammer.
With the introduction of paid messages though, people who are not in any way connected to a user's social network can pay to send a message to someone. "Today we're starting a small experiment to test the usefulness of economic signals to determine relevance," Facebook says. "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.