Facebook’s New Instant Videos Feature Encourages Viewing

Facebook is experimenting with Instant Videos, a new feature that downloads videos while the user is connected to Wi-Fi. Instant Videos then allows the user to watch these pre-loaded videos as soon she’s in the app, without wasting time or data downloading them. That furthers Facebook’s mandate to become a “video-first” platform, and saves the viewer the cost of using data, potentially encouraging more viewing. Users who don’t have much storage on their phones, however, may not want the extra videos taking up more space.

The Verge reports that, “it’s not entirely clear how Facebook is putting it to use … such as whether these videos are ones that would algorithmically appear at the top of your News Feed, or if they come from Facebook’s new video hub.” It also surmises that, with this new feature, “Facebook could be looking for stronger control over its video ecosystem and could grant publishers certain benefits for making videos that fall within its guidelines.”

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TechCrunch adds that, “the feature could also benefit Facebook’s new Watch tab of original video content, allowing it to cache episodes so people could watch them on a train or elsewhere that they might not have a strong connection or want to use up their data plan watching longer-form videos.”

Facebook revealed that, “the Instant Video test is available to a small percentage of Android users,” and TechCrunch confirmed with the social media platform that, “the goal is to remove data costs as a barrier to watching its videos.” Users will identify Instant Videos by lightning bolt icons.

The focus of Instant Video on cost “could make the feature a major boon to Facebook’s efforts in the developing world,” where “mobile data prices can be quite high compared to average incomes, and spotty network connections can make watching video frustrating.”

The future importance of video is clear: A NewsWhip report, shared by eMarketer, shows a “massive 53 percent year-over-year increase in engagement with news outlet videos on Instagram.” Video also brings “lucrative advertisements that are closer to the television commercials that brands are accustomed to making.”