Facebook announced Thursday that within the coming weeks, the company is testing autoplay videos within the mobile News Feed for a small group of U.S. users. When a mobile user swipes through their News Feed and comes across a video from an individual or a page of a musician or band, it will automatically play. Sound will only turn on after a user taps on the video.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Inside Facebook that these videos cannot be boosted or advertised at all beyond organic.
According to Facebook, only videos posted by individual Facebook users or verified pages (such as celebrities) will play automatically within mobile. Videos will play silently until a user taps to hear sound. When the video stops playing, the user will be taken back to News Feed. Only videos uploaded directly to Facebook (or Instagram) will play automatically — not YouTube or Vimeo or other platform apps which post to Facebook.
This capability is not yet available for pages.
Facebook’s Kelly Mayes introduced this new capability in a blog post:
Today we’re starting to test an easier way to watch videos on Facebook. Now when you see a video in News Feed, it comes to life and starts playing. Videos initially play silently, and if you want you can tap to play with sound in full screen. Scroll past if you don’t want to watch.
Mayes also addressed the issue of videos coming from advertisers, confirming that those videos will not automatically play:
At first, this feature will be limited to videos posted by individuals, musicians, and bands. We’re doing this to make sure we create the best possible experience. Over time, we’ll continue to explore how to bring this to marketers in the future.
While this is not the introduction to Facebook autoplay video ads that many people fear, this looks like Facebook’s way to test the capability of video automatically playing. Facebook traditionally rolls out products, works out functionality, then finds the best way to add targeted and relevant advertising on top. Users might be slightly more receptive on mobile to this capability than desktop, at least that’s what Facebook is guessing.
Video ads on Facebook can be big business for the company, but latest reports suggest that Facebook has pushed back the rumored controversial autoplay video ads indefinitely.
It is important to note that this is a test and not a rollout.