Au­to­play is here to stay

And there’s noth­ing we can do about it.

HWM (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - By Mar­cus Wong

Re­mem­ber pop-up ads? You know, the of­ten-ugly, gen­er­ally an­noy­ing pages that took up your en­tire desk­top and kept you from view­ing the con­tent you ac­tu­ally wanted to see? The same things ad blocker ex­ten­sions were de­vel­oped for?

Well, de­spite our best ef­forts to get rid of them, they’re still here; just in a dif­fer­ent form. Don’t be­lieve me? Try scrolling through your Face­book feed and go­ing ve posts with­out en­coun­ter­ing a video that’s already run­ning. The Scourge of Au­to­play Au­to­play videos are this gen­er­a­tion’s pop-up ads, and they’re more dis­rup­tive than ever as we steadily tran­si­tion from web­sites to mo­bile apps. Take Face­book for ex­am­ple. They started in­sert­ing au­to­play videos into your news­feed as early as 2013, and while they’ve taken some back­lash from users since then; don’t seem to have any in­tent on re­mov­ing them in the least.

All they’ve done is to of­fer op­tions to re­strict the “ser­vice” to Wi-Fi con­nec­tions only, and to mute the videos by de­fault. And that’s only af­ter the up­roar from users af­ter they found that their re­cently up­dated Face­book app was caus­ing them to ex­ceed their monthly cel­lu­lar data al­lowance.

Need­less to say, Face­book-owned In­sta­gram has au­to­play videos too. Twit­ter and many other so­cial net­works with apps have fol­lowed suit. In fact, the prom­ise of au­to­play videos is so great even Google is look­ing into get into the mix, with au­to­play videos served to­gether with your search re­sults! Search and be served Ac­cord­ing to search spe­cial­ist site The SEM Post, the search en­gine gi­ant is start­ing to ex­per­i­ment with au­to­play videos in their knowl­edge panel fea­ture.

This, de­spite the fact that they’ve just an­nounced that they’re re­leas­ing an ex­ten­sion for Chrome specically built to block them. Any­one else see the irony here? Play­ing along the guide­lines of “Bet­ter Ad Stan­dards”, Google’s videos ini­tially play with­out sound though you will have the op­tion to en­able that man­u­ally. They also don’t re­peat them­selves un­less you click to re­play, which may be why Google doesn’t con­sider them to be in­tru­sive.

In a state­ment re­leased to

Search En­gine Land, Google has only said that they are “con­stantly ex­per­i­ment­ing with ways to im­prove the search ex­pe­ri­ence for our users, but have no plans to an­nounce at this time”, so we could just take it to be a harm­less ex­per­i­ment.

But why try? Why ig­nore the years of re­search that says that con­sumers re­ally, re­ally hate ads with au­to­play video or au­dio? Be­cause with the pickup in mo­bile brows­ing; most of our in­ter­net surng is done via app rather than a proper browser. And that’s where au­to­play video has you trapped. Au­to­play’s siren call When an au­to­play video ap­pears in your so­cial me­dia feed, there’s no pop-up win­dow to close. You can’t re­ally tell if it’s spon­sored con­tent or a video posted by a reg­u­lar user ei­ther. And that’s per­fect - if you’re an ad­ver­tiser. Do it well, and your ad will be shared like any other reg­u­lar video, giv­ing you more cov­er­age. Think Google doesn’t want a piece of that pie?

As great as Google is, the shift away from nd­ing in­for­ma­tion via a tra­di­tional browser to get­ting it from so­cial net­work feeds (and their re­spec­tive apps) must be hurt­ing their reach (and ad sales). So any chance to pull sales back – even if it means tem­po­rar­ily of­fend­ing reg­u­lar users – must be ex­plored.

And be­sides, what com­pe­ti­tion does Google have? If you don’t like it, you can al­ways use their ex­ten­sion to block it. Hero and vil­lain; all in one. Don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit well with us. And we cer­tainly don’t ap­prove of au­to­play video in any way, shape or form.

It’s the vir­tual equiv­a­lent of stufng food down your throat. You don’t ap­pre­ci­ate that hap­pen­ing in real life, so why should you let ad­ver­tis­ers do that to you on­line? Com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google may think they’re too big for you to move away from now, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were small com­pa­nies too, liv­ing in the shad­ows of MyS­pace and Ya­hoo.

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