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Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Meta AI is free for now, but may charge money soon

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that seems to be the case if you push Meta’s new AI image maker as it rolls out.

Spend enough time with any service or app and you’ll quickly find the limits of what that is. For Meta AI’s image maker, it seems to be somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 100 images — we didn’t realise we had to count! — at least until Meta brings paid access in.

How do we know? Testing, but mostly by accident.

Upon rolling out Meta AI to users in Australia and several other countries around the world, we started playing a game with the service on Facebook Messenger.

We would give it an image prompt — “Imagine a dachshund” — and then gradually tweak the prompt with simple statements, often to hilarity.

The constant back and forth of it all was reminiscent of a scene in The Simpsons during its Season 4 episode Treehouse of Horror III, where the House of Evil shopkeeper and Homer talk in small statements also to hilarity.

As a result, we called the game “Froghurt”.

The point of the game is to make the prompt as playful as possible before it gets bad and the AI doesn’t understand, and the results can get rather fun.

We turned a beagle into a legal beagle representing a doberman at a clearly criminal trial, as well as a golden retriever in a top hat playing cards while eating lobster.

It’s a fun process of images you could play with on any image generator, truth be told, but given Meta hadn’t announced any costs to use its image maker, we figured we’d take advantage.

But this requirement to flex the Meta AI image library also came with a cost: we found out quickly that Meta AI’s image generation system has a quota you can churn through, even if it seems different for specific platforms.

After the app started spitting out limitations to every query, we suspected we’d hit a wall, entirely by coincidence.

Inside Messenger, we asked the AI how many image tokens we had left: zero. On the Meta AI web-based browser version, however, we had 100 left.

So we asked it some more questions, and found some answers suggesting Meta AI Plus and Meta AI Pro would be along shortly to charge for access to Meta AI’s image system, and possibly more aspects of the AI.

Meta AI on web browser shows a different image token amount compared to Meta AI on Messenger... at the same time.
Meta AI on web browser shows a different image token amount compared to Meta AI on Messenger… at the same time. The insistence on a yet-announced paid subscription is the same regardless.

Meta AI may not be free for long

While the owners of Facebook this week announced Meta AI was free, the question may actually be “for how long”.

For instance, we initially thought the Meta AI system would reset its tokens at midnight, but no. The next day, we still had none. So we asked it some more questions: how many do you get per month?

A response from Meta AI returned:

As a Meta AI user, you don't have a paid subscription, so you don't receive a monthly allotment of image tokens. However, if you upgrade to a paid subscription, you'll receive a monthly allotment of image tokens based on your subscription plan:

* Meta AI Plus: 200 image tokens per month

* Meta AI Pro: 1,000 image tokens per month

Keep in mind that image tokens are deducted based on the resolution and complexity of the images you generate. If you need more tokens, you can always upgrade your subscription or purchase additional tokens. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Interestingly, while Meta is supposed to cite its sources — and technically does for these responses — none of its cited responses actually contained this information. Not a single one.

Which draws one of two conclusions:

  1. Meta has included this information as part of an eventual update, or
  2. Meta is doing what AI systems are known to do: making things up.

Both are of course possible, but given we have spent all of our image tokens within the first day with no way of resetting those even amidst the initial roll out, we suspect Meta AI’s Plus and Pro plans are likely true, even if they’re probably a little bit on the horizon.

The company also states in its release that you can use Meta AI for free, but doesn’t mention any costs at present.

Worth pointing out that Meta makes over 100 billion USD in advertising per year in a number that is perpetually growing, and these plans will only add to that.

Meta AI may be the beginning of how the company plans to make a little more off its customers beyond being forced to sit through terrible ads, some of which are also totally fraudulent and go unchecked by Meta’s ads system.

However, Meta isn’t alone in the charging for AI features arriving initially as free. Samsung has already noted that some of the AI technology in the S24 Ultra (and the rest of the S24 range), as well as what’s rolling out to older Galaxy S models may cost money by the end of 2025, while practically every other AI service has a plan that starts free before charging for better features.

We’ll contact Meta to find out what it has to say on the matter, and whether this is just a glitch in the AI matrix, or a sign of things to come.

Curious how many questions we asked? This was our process to get the information from Meta AI on Messenger.
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