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It’s Official: Facebook to Start Charging Users

Now that I have your attention, the above statement is false.

Following yet another change at Facebook, a new version of an old hoax is spreading throughout the Internet warning users that the company will soon start charging for their service.

Starting early last week, many of my Facebook friends and fans sent private messages and texts seeking advice on whether they should join the new subscription service or move their friends to Google +

So widespread was the rumor that the subject was topic of numerous conversations during Presidency 5 and CPAC in Orlando last week.  Many politicians and political strategists were openly wondering whether they would now have to pay for someone to “Like” them.

In fact, several of my colleagues openly questioned this “new policy” while watching the Fox Presidential Debate and munching on Google candy in the media center of the Orange County Convention Center.

The rumor – which is spreading as a chain letter on Facebook – warns users that the world’s largest social network will soon start charging as a result of upcoming profile changes.  Notwithstanding the Facebook disclaimer that “It’s free and always will be,” hundreds of thousands have fallen for this hoax.

The posts have been reported in numerous languages and in numerous countries:

“IT IS OFFICIAL.  IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS.  FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING. DUE TO THE PROFILE CHANGES.  IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU.  PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON,  IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY.”

Another post offering various levels of Facebook membership:

“FACEBOOK JUST RELEASED THEIR PRICE GRID FOR MEMBERSHIP. $9.99 PER MONTH FOR GOLD MEMBER SERVICES, $6.99 PER MONTH FOR SILVER MEMBER SERVICES $3.99 PER MONTH FOR BRONZE MEMBER SERVICES, FREE IF YOU COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. WHEN YOU SIGN ON TOMORROW MORNING YOU WILL BE PROMPTED FOR PAYMENT INFO…IT IS OFFICIAL IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY.”

Mashable.Com has reported that the widespread rumor is just that, a rumor.  Despite the recent changes, Facebook continues to maintain on its homepage, “It’s free and always will be.”

After all, Facebook is expected to generate over $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2011.  They would not be able to do this as a paid subscription service.  Users would abandon them in droves in search of free social networks like Google +

Among the changes revealed last Thursday at the F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg discussed several new features covering everything from food to music.  One of the new features will provide a complete history of a Facebook users life on their profile page called “Timeline.”

“Timeline” will change a users profile page and will also display a large cover photo dominating it.  Facebook hopes this new service will better express who you are to others.

Even more interesting, “Timeline” will also allow Facebook users to check those who have defriended them.  This service has never before been available.

As a general rule of caution, Facebook users should not believe everything they read on their friends profile wall.  Although your friends may mean well, blindly copying and pasting false warnings and chain letters only allow rumors such as Facebook charging for its service to continue and thrive.

In dispelling other rumors: No, the Google candy available in the media room of the Fox Presidential Debate on Thursday did not contain transmitting devices. Therefore, you will not start glowing in the dark making you more searchable on Google search engines.

This is true – I was there and thoroughly enjoyed the candy bar provided by Google.

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