If you use Facebook, then you’ve almost certainly guaranteed to have at some point encountered one of its most popular and persistent hoaxes – the claim that Facebook will no longer be free and are planning on charging their users.
They’re hokum, of course. All of them. Whether it’s purporting a $5.99 gold membership, or asserting that you need to send a message to 18 contacts to keep your account free or even claiming that “your icon will turn blue and your account will be free” if you copy and paste a message. They’re all nonsense.
These rumours partly owe their success to Facebook users not really understanding how the site works. After all, if we believe that it could make sense for Facebook to introduce a charge, we may be more willing to believe a rumour that claims as much.
The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t make sense for Facebook to charge their users since they long ago took on a completely different business model. As such, any rumours claiming the social networking site will soon be introducing a charge can be completely dismissed straight away.
No “just in case”. No “but it might be true”. Just no.
Why doesn’t it make sense for Facebook to charge their users?
Facebook doesn’t charge their users because their users are not their customers. Their users are the product. Basically, you – the user – are how Facebook makes money. So the last thing the social networking giant wants to do is scare you away with talk of charging you.
When you sign up to Facebook, you give them permission to access the information you upload. You also give Facebook permission to learn about you. This in turn gives Facebook an exceptionally large database of information about their users and their interests. A database which is gold dust to advertisers looking to get their adverts and products in front of the right people. It’s called targeted advertising. And it’s big business.
It’s those advertisers that Facebook charge. They charge those advertisers to get their adverts in front of Facebook’s product – you, the user.
Facebook is a trade-off. They allow you to use the site for free so they learn about you and expose you to targeted adverts.
The business model of targeted advertising is where Facebook generate the majority of their revenue. Facebook has over 1 billion members, and this incredibly large database of members is certainly the most exhaustive database of people (and their personal information and interests) anywhere on the Internet. And this is why Facebook is such a profitable company.
And not only does Facebook have this database, they have the ability to show adverts to anyone in it, because after all, their members all use the Facebook website.
So if Facebook ever did begin to charge their users?
Facebook’s successful business model relies on the social networking site having a large user database. After all, advertisers will pay more money to reach more people. As such, Facebook don’t want to do anything to diminish the number of users they have – something which a mandatory charge would inevitably do. Facebook may make money from the users that opt to pay the charge, but this would be greatly outweighed by the inevitable money loss in advertiser revenue, as advertisers look elsewhere.
So Facebook is free and always will be?
Facebook have – time and time again – reinforced that their vision is to connect everyone in the world with their technologies, and everything they have done since they became a global sensation has confirmed that. However such a feat would not be possible if users had to hand over their credit card information to use the website.
But don’t take our word for it. Facebook has even said themselves a number of times that their services will always be free of charge. It says so right on their loginb page.
So next time one of your friends shares the latest incarnation of the “Facebook is charging” genre of hoaxes, send them this way.