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Facebook makes strange change to home slogan

Something strange happened on Facebook. Don’t worry if you missed it. After all, strange things happen on Facebook all the time.

In my time monitoring Facebook, I’ve seen the breadth and depth of strangeness.

You can participate in debates as to why Alaska is not one of the 50 states, or why Puerto Rico should be.

You can watch fast-paced how-to videos for packing clothes into small suitcases or making elaborate vegetable sculptures.

I’ve learned you can buy one dress shoe in Facebook’s Marketplace, a men’s size 10-and-a-half for your left foot. Of course, this is probably not strange for all the folks who do not need two same-sized shoes.

Part of the appeal of Facebook is that all this strangeness is perfectly curated and available whenever I want it.

But even by Facebook standards, a new strangeness stands out. In early August, Facebook deleted its homepage slogan — “It’s free and always will be.” The new motto is “It’s quick and easy.”

To find it, check Facebook’s login screen and look under the words “Create New Account.”

No, Facebook was never really free. We always paid for it with privacy and data. But if you put that aside and look at it from a monetary perspective, the change is still notable.

If Facebook is no longer free, then who’s paying for it?

Maybe it’s a clarification. Facebook is (or was) free for us, but there are costs for businesses that want to advertise. Facebook gets advertising income from the 6 million businesses that use it to promote their products and services.

The blog Social Media Examiner reported that Facebook still tops the most-used platform list for marketers with over 90 percent saying they continue to use the site to advertise.

Even when the slogan seemed destined to be on the homepage forever (i.e., “It’s free and always will be”), the platform was always tinkering with its business model to lure more users.

In 2010, Facebook’s Zero was launched as a partnership with mobile providers to provide free access. The free part came in the form of “free” or waived mobile data charges.

But as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” Facebook’s Zero is a minimalist version of what we’re used to seeing on the platform. The bells and whistles are missing. You’ll get posts and important updates, but that’s it.

Zero is just that — zero-rate. There’s no data charge unless you choose to download an image. This is popular in developing countries were funds and access are limited.

Another possibility, although highly unlikely, is that Facebook intends to start charging us. They might begin offering tiered services. We call these “freemiums,” a portmanteau of the words “free” and “premium.” The basic service is free, but if you want additional features, it will cost you.

LinkedIn is a good example of the freemium model. Users get a lot from the free version, but for LinkedIn users who are on the job market, they can upgrade to a premium version ($30 per month and the first month is “free”).

In reality, Facebook removing “free” from its description isn’t that strange. What’s strange is that some believed Facebook was actually free. Maybe this is just Facebook’s gentle reminder that nothing is free on social media.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn. com.

acearnheardt@ysu.edu