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Users should not be surprised if Facebook starts charging

Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 02:05

When Facebook went public, its initial public offering (IPO) gave investors the chance to own a piece of the massive social network via stocks. But with the development, the company is bound to change, and this time it’s not going to be just a revamped homepage.

Facebook users have always enjoyed a nearly ad-free homep­age, with just a few easy-to-ig­nore ads popping up. However, with Facebook trying to figure out the value of each user, investors and advertisers are going to be trying out some new tools to figure out how many quarters they can squeeze out of users’ pockets.

Making Facebook a public entity could be seen as giving the users control, but how many average Facebook users are going to shell out about $30 for a single share of the stock? And once these users have a financial obligation to the company, what are they willing to do to raise the price tag on their stock?
Rumored changes to the website include paying for “pri­ority” status updates so more people will see them. While this might be good for businesses trying to use Facebook to reach more customers, it could clog up news feeds with posts rem­iniscent of spam. People who didn’t expect Facebook to try to nickel-and-dime its consumers were unaware of the actual status of Facebook — a company.

While Facebook’s humble beginnings and explosion of popularity were impressive, and its motives appear altruistic, it is a company after all, not a nonprofit. Companies are in busi­ness to make money — and Mark Zuckerberg has more than he knows what to do with — not to simply give away their products because they feel like being nice.

It all comes down to the money. How can Facebook make money on the users? By giving them the option to spend more to have a better-looking profile than other people. There is a possibility that the future of Facebook might include paying for features we take for granted, or by giving users the option to pay for a “priority” status update that everyone and their mother will see (and whose mother isn’t on Facebook these days?).

How much would you pay to “like” your friend’s photo of her adorable new puppy? I’m willing to bet a priority status update that Facebook will test the limits of its users’ wallets on each feature. Facebook is going to change drastically and quickly with more money surrounding its existence. But this might not be for the better. According to Facebook’s data, the website has more than 900 million active users as of this month. It will be interesting to see how that number fluctuates if the company starts asking for chump change to access previously free features.

Andi Hendrickson is a student at Ohio State University.

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