Mike Isaac

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Facebook Tests Auto-Play News Feed Videos on Mobile

facebook_ios_appCurious to see what Facebook’s in-stream video ads will look like? Some of you will get a hint of it today — sort of.

No, Facebook isn’t rolling out its long-awaited, oft-delayed in-stream video ad product. The company is, however, rolling out a small test on Thursday, where some users will begin to see auto-playing in-stream videos.

Some caveats: For those in the test group, they’ll only see those auto-play videos from other users — not advertisers or brands — who upload video directly to Facebook or through Instagram or a handful of other apps. The videos won’t have audio as you scroll through the News Feed, playing with sound only if you tap them to go full-screen. And for now, it’s a mobile-only test for Android and iPhone users.

It’s an easy way to test how people will react to seeing auto-playing videos show up in their streams without fully ticking them off with more noticeable advertisements. Concern about the user experience is why we haven’t seen auto-play video ads show up, according to AdAge. Gauge how folks respond to regular old user-generated content first, then stick the ads in later.

I don’t particularly care for the idea of auto-play videos — much less auto-play ads — so I can only imagine the general public won’t love it either. Still, I played around with the test version earlier this week, and it wasn’t awful. We’ll see whether that belief prevails.

Don’t expect a wide roll-out, as only a percentage of Facebook’s billion-plus user network will see it.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik