Facebook clearly hearts one of Tumblr’s key features.
Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is testing out a feature that lets community members give their posts some extra pizazz to make them more noticeable in the News Feed, letting users pay to highlight their status updates and photos with a yellow background, which would certainly contrast with the dark blue hue Facebook often prefers.
"We're constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people's interest in this method of sharing with their friends," Facebook spokeswoman Mia Garlick told Stuff. (The coloring of such posts may not actually happen though, according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.)
The network is trialling the highlighted posts feature at a number of different prices, as Facebook experiments with a possible new revenue model ahead of becoming a public company.
For the most part, Facebook makes its cash through a combination of advertising revenue and commissions from partners like Zynga. As things stand, the world’s biggest social network makes less than $5 from each of its more than 900 million community members each year.
That still works out to several billion dollars in revenue. However, there are investors to please and there will soon be many more people with a financial stake in Facebook’s future (assuming the Instagram FTC investigation doesn’t delay the initial public offering too long), all of whom will be hoping that the company can grow its overall revenue.
With mobile usage hurting Facebook’s ad business, it’s no surprise that the company wants to play around with new revenue streams. If Facebook could convince all its users to highlight a couple of posts a year at a couple of dollars each, it could significantly boost revenue. That would probably please the likes of Bono.
But what of the impact on the Facebook community?
Let’s face it; this is not likely to be more annoying than that dreadful Trending Articles box at the top of the News Feed. With the ticker, ads, and chat bar, the Facebook homepage is already pretty cluttered. So what harm could another feature do?
Quite a lot, actually. Constine posited that highlighted posts may make the News Feed less relevant and useful. Facebook has optimized the News Feed to make posts from your closest friends more prominent, with posts that receive a lot of likes and comments getting a bump too, a scenario the highlighted posts could aggravate severely.
It’s not quite clear how these highlighted posts may appear in more refined versions of the News Feed, such as friend lists. It seems that they’ll show up towards the top of the News Feed, with the posts perhaps staying visible for longer than a regular post and appearing more often in friends’ and subscribers’ News Feeds.
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