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Facebook Autoplay Videos Come to Mobile, but No Ads Yet

News feed feature launches Friday

Photo: Chris Ratcliffe

Select Facebook mobile users tomorrow will see the first autoplay videos in their news feeds, the digital giant has revealed. Advertisers cannot employ the feature for the time being, but the move likely signals a baby step toward when video marketing messages roll into view regularly as Facebook users sift through their friends' thoughts and photos.

Autoplay videos in the near term will exclusively feature a small test set of regular Facebook users and musicians/celebrities with verified pages, such as pop performer Lady Gaga or CNN's Fareed Zakaria. The videos will initially autoplay on mute though users can click the multimedia player to hear sound.

Uploaded videos for those kinds of parties will autoplay automatically without the poster clicking a button—or having the ability to choose against autoplay. In other words, the news feed experience should closely resemble Instagram video.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook's test starts with consumers on the Android mobile operating system, but iPhone users will get into the mix sometime next week. Only videos uploaded to Facebook's platform will autoplay, including those shot via Instagram, Social Cam and Cinemagram. Videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other sources will not auto play.

No timetable was disclosed for Web-based autoplay video by Facebook reps.

Meanwhile, there's been plenty of speculation about when autoplay video advertising will come to Facebook. Originally, the marketing product was supposed to—per industry rumors—arrive in October. Adweek's sources confirm the initiative has been pushed back indefinitely. 

Unless Facebook is mulling the idea of not enabling brands to participate in autoplay at all, it'd be surprising to see the month of November go by without letting video advertisers use the product.

The cash that CEO Mark Zuckerberg & Co. could collect with autoplay video during the build-up to Black Friday and in December would likely be staggering. Per one major agency player, an exclusive national buy for the news feed ad unit for a day would easily surpass a Super Bowl spot when it comes to sheer impressions.

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