Facebook first floated the idea of auto-play videos in the news feed late last year. Initially, the thought was that video ads were on the way, and they’d start automatically to catch the attention of those users scanning their feeds. Now that auto-start has been applied to videos on Facebook mobile, they’re using data at an obscene rate.
According to Dan Deeth, contributor to Sandvine’s Internet Phenomenon blog, this represents a marked increase in data consumption by Facebook on both mobile and fixed networks.
“In the past year, Facebook traffic (depending on the day) increased by 60 percent on the mobile network, and by over 200 percent on the fixed network, driven (we believe) mainly by the addition of auto-play videos to the Facebook feed.”
Deeth points out that with the addition of auto-play, the Facebook feed has been loading far more data than you might think. Deeth notes that the addition of video (24 to 30 photos per second) to a primarily text and photo feed could wreak havoc to a data plan. He notes a similar increase when Instagram started offering video.
The problem with this increase is that users could become more reluctant to waste their data allowances on videos that they didn’t want to see in the first place. Pando Daily reporter Nathaniel Mott points out that apps should first do no harm to users data limits:
“If there’s just one guiding principle for application development, it should be ‘don’t waste data’,” he writes.
It was easy to see this problem coming. In fact, video streaming services are the leading data users online. On one hand, this is the perfect argument for expanding bandwidth capabilities across the board. On the other, this is an example of Facebook taking care of the bottom line rather than its user base.
“The user doesn’t have any say in the matter; Facebook has decided that it and its advertisers have a right to use a consumer’s wireless data connection as it sees fit, and it doesn’t much care what its users think about that,” Mott writes.