Facebook has just launched a trial scheme to charge UK users between 71p and £11 to send messages to people they don't know, including celebrities. The prices vary depending on who you're trying to contact. According to the Guardian:
Facebook said the charging fee structure varied according to a number of factors including the number of followers and a secret "fame" algorithm.
But just what is the algorithm? Tom Daley is at £10.68, but Robert Peston only fetches 71p. Salman Rushdie's at 10.08, but then so is Snoop Lion. Here's my best shot at cracking it with the information so far available:
1. £10.68: Tom Daley, Olympic diver; Ed Sheeran, singer-songwriter; Michael Rosen, former children's laureate.
Secret algorithm: Producer of or target demographic for children's poetry
2. £10.08: Salman Rushdie, Booker prize-winning author; Snoop Lion, US rapper.
Secret algorithm: Name sounds like or is a type of animal
3. 71p: Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, Robert Peston, journalist; Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry's girlfriend; Louis Theroux, broadcaster; Miranda Hart, comedian; anyone you don't know already.
Secret algorithm: Dances the zouk-lambada/might have danced the zouk-lambada/might have watched someone dance the zouk-lambada/you can't rule it out completely
4. £61: Mark Zuckerberg (in January, idea now abandoned)
Secret algorithm: In charge of secret algorithm
The scheme is, of course, a form of spam-control - but it's also a strange sort of return to Facebook's roots. Starting as a network only available to Harvard students, the site originally marked itself out from the crowd because it was elitist - and therefore worth trying to be a part of, at least according to Marx (Groucho, not the other one). As it expanded via the Ivy League, Oxbridge, other universities, the world and from thence their parents, it lost a certain amount of status. It's interesting that it has found a money-making scheme that tallies with these early principles.