U.S. News

Will Facebook Start Charging Its Users?

Alicia Pflaumer|Christian Science Monitor

Last week, Facebook's F8 conference stirred up a lot of buzz. The world's No. 1 social-networking site rolled out a new Timeline feature, Netflix integration, and – gasp! – verbs.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg focused most on Timeline, the digital equivalent of a personal scrapbook. With this new feature, users will be able to tell their own stories through status updates, photos, and likes. (Timeline will become publicly available soon.)

With all these new features, a rumor surfaced that Facebook would begin charging users for access to the site. The hearsay spread around Facebook for the past few days, leaping from one concerned user to another.

The message said that Facebook will be "free if you copy and paste this message before midnight" and "please pass this message on if not your account will be deleted if you do not pay."

Facebook responded Monday on its official page: "A rumor on the internet caught our attention. We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It's free and always will be."

Myth busted.

The rumor itself didn't really make any sense. This might seem like a weird way to think about social networking, but from Facebook's perspective, users aren't its customers. Users are Facebook's product. Advertisers are its customers. And they pay good money to use the information that people put on Facebook in order to better target their ads. Facebook will take in $3.8 billion worldwide for 2011, eMarketer estimates, and is on the path to continue to grow next year.

With that kind of money rolling in, there's no need to charge an entry fee. Not to mention, Facebook can increase that value with every few thousand new members and with every new excuse for people to share more information about themselves.