It comes as a huge surprise, then, that Facebook is in the morning headlines for at some point today unveiling auto-play videos. Now, I'm pretty sure if I cast my mind back there was a major backlash against the social media giant allowing video to simply run in the background with the audio turned off. Even without sound, users argued that it was quite off-putting and was using up mobile data because a set of moving pictures obviously eats more into a monthly allowance than a single, static image.
Now, as for what Facebook thinks it will achieve by allowing video to run automatically with sound is absolutely beyond me. There's a track record out there on the Web already. Several news outlets, out of desperation to have video deemed as viewable, hide frames within a story. You start to read the news of the day and suddenly there's a voice telling you which PC or car you should be buying. You scroll around until you find the window and then search for the pause button to stop the ad. But, of course, two seconds have elapsed and it is deemed viewed.
One can only think that this is what Facebook is up to. It has been in hot water for overestimating video views and perhaps now wants to bring more clarity to its figures, and of course bump up revenue. Having video play automatically, with sound on, certainly will allow the social media giant to claim that more promoted videos have been viewed.
The social giant will say there is some work around for concerned users. But why, oh why, is it always a case with Facebook of users having to disable something somewhere to stop the social giant from mucking up their user experience, usually around privacy? They're pointing out that turning off audio on a mobile device will stop videos from playing automatically. I'm also sure there will be some tick-box folders in an impenetrable settings folder that stops videos from playing automatically. But why make us have to undo what Facebook has done? Why should I turn off my volume so I don't hear the annoying thing they've done?
There are some news sites I treat with real caution now -- The Mirror and The Express are prime among them, but there are many others. They offer a truly hideous user experience with videos screaming out at the unsuspecting reader. I've modified my online news reading habits to circumvent such titles. So the tactic of driving video revenues has undoubtedly backfired on me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Putting ad viewability and revenue way ahead of user experience will come back to bite Facebook. It's a commercial intrusion that goes too far. It will force users to modify their behaviour and not catch a sneaky look at their profile while the tv is on or their partner is reading. I'm pretty sure it will continue the ditching of the platform by Millennials who will carry on using Snapchat where they can stay in control.
It's such a stupid idea for so many reasons -- it's a wonder Facebook would be dumb enough to announce it.