Facebook is making an update to its Messages feature. It’s adding filters to help solve the problem of finding messages that should be seen and seeing those that shouldn’t. To do that, it is following through on news it shared last month and will be replacing its “Who can send me Facebook Messages” setting with two new up-front filters.

As the company sets out to find ways to help bring in relevant messages, it’s also finding ways to monetize and one new way that could have privacy groups and businesses reacting is this “pay for play” program. There are many signals that go into determining what gets through to a user’s Messages inbox, but one new signal Facebook is testing is allowing some users the ability to pay in order to help get their messages delivered, regardless of friendship status on the network.

Messaging has been an interesting thing for Facebook, both as blessing and a curse. The latter is because of user complaints that they’re missing out on messages or don’t even know that they exist. Did you know that hundreds of these communications could have potentially have gone unseen in your Messages inbox? Sure, there’s an “Other” folder in Facebook that basically acts as the catch-all for all communications that it deems to have low relevancy. It’s too bad that a few innocent messages get tagged and removed because of this filter.

Facebook tells us that the experience is broken and that by adding filters, it will help to make sure that the messages that should get through actually do. Currently, the experience is that when you get a phone number from a non-Facebook friend and then choose to text them through Facebook’s mobile app, it won’t get through. The same will go if you email a Facebook friend at their facebook.com email address from Gmail. If your Gmail address isn’t associated with Facebook, it won’t get through. It’s weird, isn’t it?

Evolving this process is what the company hopes to do in order to make sure that Messages isn’t about simply sending one-off dialogues to one another. It’s aiming to make it more of a conversation where messages should be able to be sent however you want it, whether it’s by web, tablet, or by smartphone — and you should get it.

Screenshot 730x434 Facebook updates Messages feature with filtering, tests a service to let people pay to send them

Being rolled out to its 1 billion users today are two filters: basic and strict:

  • Basic Filtering involves allowing mostly messages from Facebook friends and people you may know (e.g. “friends of friends”) in your inbox. By default, anyone in the current Messages setting that has “friends of friends” or “everyone” set will have this setting.
  • Strict Filtering is a “friends only” setting so anyone you’re not Facebook friends with will most likely be sent to the Other messages folder.

A Facebook spokesperson tells us that all current settings will be carried over when filters are implemented. But just how do you know what your settings are? If you go to Privacy settings and go under “How You Connect” and edit settings, you’ll see a field labeled “Who can send me Facebook Messages”. The placement of this setting here doesn’t make sense — Facebook realized this.

Perhaps spurred by its recent privacy control settings update, the company is now moving it so that it’s visible right within the Messages screen. Imagine that, being able to not only view messages, but also control the setting right from the same screen.

Photo credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images