It wasn’t a huge jump to assume that Facebook’s plan to make “your” videos automatically play in your Feed was just easing users into the concept before they started throwing video ads that play without your consent into your Feed. And sure enough, Facebook will be starting tests on Thursday, including with its mobile app.
Facebook announced the move the way Facebook announces anything that will make its users riot; in an official blog no one looks at. Anyway, it’ll operate much like user videos do now; the video will start playing silently on your Feed, and will fill the screen and play audio if you tap it. The good news for those of you with a limited data plan is that the videos download over WiFi, so you won’t have to pay to watch these ads for a movie you don’t care about (Divergent, if you were wondering.)
In other words, it’s right up to, but not over, the line of being too annoying and intrusive to work. But like anything else with Facebook, we have to ask how long it’ll be before these ads start becoming a problem. Facebook claims it’s a “premium” service that will only be used by marketers making a big push, but this is Facebook; they say that about everything until the stock price dips enough. It also seems unlikely that, eventually, they won’t start flipping that audio switch to “on” because “we have found that most users have the app muted anyway, so what’s the problem, bro?”
Similarly, once users start flipping their WiFi off because they find these ads annoying, or the inevitable Facebook Ad Blocker app comes along, we have to wonder how long it’ll be before Facebook starts using your data plan to push products on you. Or, for that matter, if Facebook will try to push you to “make space” for their ads on your phone if it’s too full to fit in their videos.
There is good news, however, a beam of light in an otherwise dark social networking world: Facebook might finally be experimenting with an official dislike button. If how they apply video ads sticks to their pattern, it can’t come soon enough.