Beware Facebook’s data-sucking autoplay videos

29 Apr

facebookOver the past few months, I’ve come dangerously close to exceeding my mobile data cap. As I write this, I’ve used 944 megabytes of my one gigabyte limit, with just hours left until my monthly reset.

I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve been using the same phone for a while now, with the same usage patterns – I think – as always. So what’s been chewing through all that extra data?

And then it dawned on me: Facebook. Facebook and its – excuse my French – $%#@ autoplay videos. You know, the “feature” the company rolled out in December along with the biggest load-of-crap explanation yet foisted on internet users:

Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time. From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.

If you use Facebook, you *know* what autoplay videos are. They’re the videos that, well, automatically play whenever they appear in your browser window. Thankfully, they don’t play sound unless you click on them, but they play silently and annoyingly nevertheless. And they chew up data.

This is, of course, a serious issue on mobile where data allowances are generally low and expensive (especially in Canada). Autoplay can be disabled completely on desktop web browsers, but with mobile devices the best that can be hoped for is to set the “feature” so that it only works over Wi-Fi. To do so with Apple devices, you go to Settings > Facebook > Settings > Auto-play on Wi-Fi only:

ios-facebookOn Android, go into the Facebook app itself and select App Settings, then Auto-play on Wi-Fi only:

android-facebookThat said, videos that play automatically are a horrendously bad idea, even for a service that is otherwise free. Many reputable websites long ago learned that people hate pop-up ads and videos that start playing automatically (especially with sound), so Facebook’s decision to monetize in this manner is rather anachronistic, not to mention an overt middle-finger to established user preferences.

I, for one, really haven’t cared much about Facebook’s many privacy intrusions since I generally don’t put much personal information into it in the first place. But when Facebook starts costing me money by cynically using up precious data, or when it angers me by forcing me to look at things that I have no interest in… well, those are big lines to cross. Mark Zuckerberg really needs to think of a different way to make money and scrap this “feature” as soon as possible.


Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Facebook


4 responses to “Beware Facebook’s data-sucking autoplay videos

  1. trixxiii

    April 29, 2014 at 12:11 am

    thanks just got a new samsung and i needed to know this :}

  2. parridox

    April 29, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Any one on a wireless ‘HUB’ is paying for any of this in many ways. Pages with lots of pictures, websites like POGO .com. Plus like you say”video’s”, we the internet person pays & pays for all of this stuff. Sucks to have to pay for something ya don’t need. There needs to be a button in browser to stop all of this crapware. I was looking for your email to make acomplaint about such as you are saying here.! Very good post, so thanks for info!
    P.S. Runs like pumping gas 4 your car!

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