The genius of Facebook is that it was made to elicit a response. You don’t visit just to see which friends of yours did what. Invariably, and predictably, you respond too, in a setting that at least once upon a time seemed kind of intimate. These were “friends” you “like.”
It’s like the telephone. Way back, people didn’t get one just to see how many times it rang.
So news, reported constantly, about Facebook’s test with a new tool that will automatically play video clips—but without sound—on users’ News Feed sounds, at first, like a good idea. As Facebook explained it, videos your friends send will start automatically, and without sound. If you want audio, you can add it in.
But not too far down the pike, these automatic videos—a very small handful of them—will be advertising videos, and they won’t be coming from your friends, unless you are friends with, say, Tom Toothpaste, Ron McDonald or Wendy Hamburger. Then maybe.
The idea of offering video advertising, you can be sure, didn’t happen after somebody at Facebook realized they could make the user experience better with friends’ Facebook videos. But because Facebook is taking a long time to roll it out, you have to wonder if it isn’t having significant second thoughts.
Facebook users still have a sense of intimacy with Facebook, despite lots of reasons they shouldn’t. When ads come in to the picture in big, fat obvious ways, the fallout—you’d think—could be major. On the other hand, can a whole Facebook community move? Not easily.
But Facebook knows it has an audience of 1.2 billion people to sell. For advertisers, it sounds great. Facebook only intends to sell a very small handful of videos in a day, each to the same advertiser. It seems pretty sure it shouldn't inundate users, many of whom come and go throughout the day. They won’t stand for an advertisement everytime they vidiy, and Facebook seems to know that. What Facebook may not know is whether, at the end of their experiment with this idea, if people will “like” Facebook quite as much as they evidently do now. I have my doubts.