Over the last week or so, we’ve caught our first glimpses of Facebook feed video auto-play. There we were, scrolling along mindlessly through the Facebook mobile app, when a friend's video started to play on its own. Maybe it was an Instagram video of a dog in the snow, or maybe just a straight-up Facebook post from someone’s karaoke party.
Either way, the feature was added without being an interruption to the browsing experience—in fact, it almost made the News Feed come to life little, amongst all the other static content.
Of course, for all good things, there is a dark side .The Yang to this interesting new feature’s Yin is that auto-play will also be applied to advertisements. Which makes it even harder to escape the clutches of Facebook marketing that are overtaking the News Feed—you will see them very soon, and you will see them on the mobile and desktop apps.
“Marketers will be able to use this new format to tell their stories to a large number of people on Facebook in a short amount of time—with high-quality sight, sound, and motion," Facebook explained.
"This approach will continue to improve the quality of ads that you see in News Feed. This week, a small number of people will see video ads for the new film Divergent begin playing as they come into view on the News Feed on mobile and on desktop.”
Over the past week, I never saw natively posted videos (videos uploaded by friends) autoplay on desktop, which might have been a better transition. However, as we noted last week, the update actually revealed how infrequently we’re posting our own videos to Facebook.
But in order to prepare us all for the coming onslaught of ad, Facebook’s offering some prep: While videos will play once in view, they will be muted by default. For sound, you'll have to tap, indicating that you want to watch it (if you don’t, keep on scrolling). However, once you tap, the video will be pulled into full screen, and at the end you’ll have the option to choose between two more videos, “making it easy to continue to discover content from the same marketers,” as Facebook explains it.
Facebook also assures users that these videos will be downloaded when devices are connected to Wi-Fi so it won’t be a huge data drain. What happens if you never, or incredibly rarely use Wi-Fi? "If a user never connects to WiFi, then these videos will not begin to play directly in News Feed. A user would have to click on them to watch them," a Facebook spokesperson tells us. Possibly more important? The fact that those of us who aren't so nimble-fingered will likely unintentionally tap and click a few ads, opening them to full screen.
It was but a brief moment in the sun, enjoying this new and interesting feature. Soak it up for as long as you can, because the ads are about to infiltrate it. And here’s what that’s going to look like:
Is anyone else amused that that post wasn't auto-played?
Screengrab via Facebook