Facebook announced Wednesday that it was rolling a new service in 20 countries that would enable users to promote their status updates -- for a price. Starting soon, there will be a new button on each of your status updates that allows you to push that specific update out to more friends. To be more specific, it essentially juices the post's Edgerank, the algorithm that controls which posts show up when and where, and more or less turns you into an advertisers for your life. It costs $7. Every time.
With this new announcement, it's easy to jump to a very quick and somewhat troubling conclusion: Facebook wants to charge you to use Facebook. This is only sort of true. As the social network has said time and time again -- usually in response to rumors that it would start charging -- that the social network is a free service. You can sign up, create a profile, send some message, stalk some ex-girlfriends, and it doesn't cost a dime. But as the newly public Facebook struggles to find a revenue model that will satisfy it's shareholders and (God forbid) bring up its long-suffering stock price, it's going to start experimenting.
This promoted post idea is not a novel one. Facebook sort of stole it from Tumblr, who launched a similar feature called "highlighted posts" in February and a more aggressive option called "pinned posts" in June. Then, you have Twitter's synonymous ad product which is still pretty new and mysterious. Even Facebook itself has long given certain users the option to trade dollars for exposure through its über-complicated advertising portal. Nevertheless, some people think that this is to basic a service to make users pay for. “I know it’s just a test, but it doesn’t send the right message,” Arvind Bhatia, a technology analyst for Sterne Agee told The Washington Post. “Charging for something so generic doesn’t make sense.”
That said, let's all remember that this is a test and only a test. If everybody hates it, Facebook could just roll it back and come up with another way to make money. Perhaps a theme park...