Facebook has a tendency to divide loyalties: few admit they like the service, but most Canadians use it. From Timeline design changes to the way the Feed is integrated with advertisements, everyone has an opinion about the free social network’s path to profitability — it’s unlikely FB will ever charge a monthly fee for its core features — but they’re all made, in the end, to better serve ads.
Today, Facebook is announcing yet another way for advertisers to get rich from the scrolling thumbs of its over one billion monthly users: auto-play videos. Though in testing since September with a small subset of the user base, auto-play ads are being made available to advertisers, and will begin showing up on desktop and mobile feeds as early as this week.
The content will be downloaded in advance over WiFi, so mobile data pools will not be affected, but scrolling past the pre-loaded content will cause it to begin playing with no sound. Tapping on the video will expand it to take up the whole screen and activate the sound. When the video ends, two more will appear in a carousel, similar to the way photos are displayed today in a linear feed.
Whether this will tangibly tarnish the experience of mobile Facebook users remains to be seen, but unlike on Instagram there are already plenty of mobile ads on the service. Auto-play videos are just another way for Facebook to allow advertisers to engage with an expansive and largely sympathetic audience, especially if the ads are targeted to users like static ones are today.