A patent application from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggests that he, at some point, at least toyed with the idea of introducing a "paid profile" model that would allow users to customize what shows up on their profiles and, more importantly, get rids of ads.
The patent, US20130030987 A1, doesn't actually mention "Facebook" in particular - instead goes with less-specific terms like "social networking environment." But it was definitely filed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, along with Facebook ads product director Gokul Rajaram and former Facebook product management director Prashant Fuloria.
The patent abstract cuts to the chase:
In one embodiment, a system includes one or more computing systems that implement a social networking environment and are operable to provide paid profile personalization functions to users. In particular embodiments, the user may select one or more social networking objects to replace advertisements or other elements that are normally displayed to visitors of the user's profile page that are otherwise controlled by the social networking system. In particular embodiments, the user may edit elements on their profile page that are otherwise automatically generated and controlled in design and content by the social networking system. In particular embodiments, the user is billed on a recurring basis for profile personalization.
Key words: Billed, replace ads, edit elements.
The ad replacement model would see them replaced with popular photos or videos or the user's choosing. The profile customization could come in this form (straight from the application):
“For example, after receiving a large number of comments or “likes” on a particular status message, the user may receive a dialog box prompting the user with the text: 'Would you like to personalize your profile with this status message for 10 credits a month?'”
Notice the mockup below, that features "favorite memories" and videos on the right-hand side instead of ads:
A patent application doesn't connote intent. There's no reason to think that some sort of profile subscription offering is on the way any time soon. The patent, which was just published on January 31st of this year, was actually filed way back in July of 2011. That's why all of the mockups feature a profile that looks severely outdated.
Having said this, the patent is there and it is clear about what it could do.
Despite what plenty of hoaxes have told you, Facebook will continue to be free. You'll never have to pay a subscription fee to access the core service, or pay a fee to keep information private. But charging for customized profiles, or to get rid of those pesky ads? That is most certainly a possibility. Would you do it?[h/t GigaOm]