With the latest “Facebook is charging” rumour doing the rounds, we take a closer look into why these pointless hoaxes are as illogical as they are persistent.
Some hoaxes will simply never be put to rest. Those hoaxes – that have been so ingeniously shaped as to immediately and effortlessly provoke the desired reaction from their unwitting victims – will, despite our best efforts, continue to circulate for the foreseeable future.
A perfect example, perhaps, is the assertion that an otherwise free service will no longer be free as a soon-to-be introduced charge is on the horizon. Such assertions – passed in the guise of chain emails or social networking messages, affecting almost every free-to-use service on the Internet – will inevitably spark frustration. Of course it would. Who wants to start paying for a free service after all? A message that can easily incite this frustration, coupled with a mere ounce of believability, is practically destined to success. Frustration provokes action. It’s human nature after all, and this persistent rumour is the ideal example of how successful simple social engineering can be.
We mentioned that these messages must contain an ounce of believability to warrant viral success, but even this may be too generous for the latest [yet curiously popular] rumours purporting a fantasy charge for Facebook, so to help matters, we’ll explain why Facebook will not charge you – now or ever.
To the uninformed, introducing a charge could possibly appear to be the next logical step. After all, Facebook have hooked in hundreds of millions of users, now its time to hit them with the mandatory charge and rake in the cash, but alas Facebook’s primary revenue and even the very fundamental design of the site could not possibly work like this.
In fact Facebook’s very successful revenue model, which has propelled CEO Zuckerberg into a billionaire and one of the richest men on the planet, actually relies on Facebook being free. The model is relatively simple. Facebook is free. This fact, coupled with good marketing has allowed Facebook to capture a colossal user base. Other companies are willing to pay big bucks to have their businesses exposed to this user base. Ergo, the companies pay Facebook, and in return Facebook expose their users (you) to [targeted] adverts and shares your information with them.
It’s a successful model, yet one that has continually put them on the wrong side of privacy activists and the media limelight – however – like it or not, Facebook is in the business of selling YOU to third parties. It’s how they make their money, and one of the reasons why you need to be careful what information you volunteer to them.
Would this revenue model work if Facebook charged you?
To answer this question, you would need to think about this – would you or your friends stay on Facebook if you had to pay, or would you choose a free alternative?
Initially, it could be generally assumed that most would leave. It makes sense. Why pay when you can get it for free? Social networking is a competitive niche and there are enough free social networking sites biting at Facebook’s ankles for Facebook “abandonees” to choose from. Maybe die hard “Facebookers” and those that utilize Facebook’s marketing leverage would consider the charge, but for those that don’t have the money, don’t use the site often enough and those who protest the charge, leaving is the inevitable option.
And with social networking, when one domino falls, so do the others. Who wants to be on a social networking site with no friends? Once your friends leave, so do you, regardless of how you felt about the charge.
The money Facebook makes from advertising is directly proportional to the amount of users it has. Third party companies are not going to pay the same amount of money if the amount of people exposed to their adverts gets cut by 90%. It’s common sense.
So if Facebook introduced a charge?
1. A significant amount of users would initially leave
2. Followed by most of the rest upon realising social networking with no friends is no fun
3. Third party companies don’t pay Facebook because Facebook don’t have users.
4. Facebook becomes empty, disused and abandoned.
This is why Facebook will not ever charge you to use their service. If you know someone who continually falls for these types of hoaxes, using the often utilised justification of “it could be true” – feel free to point them in this direction.
As for the rumours which claim copying and pasting a message will keep your account free, we won’t go any further into why that doesn’t make any sense on so many different levels.
A small update for May 2012 –
The resurgence of this hoax continues, possibly in part down to a new feature Facebook is expected to rollout where Facebookers are given the opportunity of paying Facebook to have their status updates reach a much larger percentage of their friends. Essentially its advertising, but the important thing to note is that it is entirely optional. Don’t worry, you will never have to pay to use Facebook. Ever. Period.