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Fees come to social networking

Tickle, the Friendster competitor formerly known as Emode, is first out of the gate with fees for some social networking services.

Social networking, a rising Internet trend most famously exemplified by Friendster, is about to meet another online trend--fees.

After months of anticipation, fees for social networking services, which let people create linked networks of personal profiles for social or professional ends, will make their debut Tuesday, when San Francisco-based Tickle starts charging for access to some profiles.

Tickle stressed that its basic social networking service, an August addition to its pre-existing matchmaking system and personality quizzes, will remain free. As of Tuesday, the only thing that will require a paid subscription is the ability to contact people separated from a member by more than four links away in the social network.

Tickle fully expects Friendster and other competition to jump on the fee bandwagon to benefit the industry as a whole, said Tickle Chief Executive James Currier.

"It's not that Tickle is the social networking company that's charging," Currier said in an interview. "It's for the enhanced features that we're drawing the line, and we're hopeful that the others come along with us. There needs to be a revenue stream for these companies to provide a good, strong service to consumers. We learned our lesson during the bubble that you can't sustain these services without some kind of payment relationship, and consumers are getting used to paying for things that they use and enjoy."

Friendster founder Jonathan Abrams, who was not immediately available for comment, has said in the past that his service will remain free, though fees could be introduced for extra features.

Tickle has turned a profit for the last seven quarters through fees associated with its quizzes and dating services, Currier said.

Premium subscriptions to the Tickle social network, which boasts more than 1 million members, according to the company, will cost $19.95 for one month, $39.95 for three months, and $59.95 for six months.

Tickle in November changed its name from Emode and acquired a small competitor called Ringo.