Shut up Face­book!

Page 404 Barry Collins wants an ASBO placed on Face­book’s lat­est mo­bile ‘fea­ture’

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Happy birth­day to my gor­geous girl. Can’t be­lieve how quickly they grow up…

WOOAAAAAHHH! WOOOAAAAHH!!! THERE IT IS! ON YOUR MARK, READY, SET – LET’S GO, DANCE FLOOR PRO, I KNOW YOU KNOW, I GO PSY­CHO WHEN MY NEW JOINT HIT, JUST CAN’T SIT, GOT TO GET JIGGY WITH IT…

Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind. The Web User staff have not gone on strike and started past­ing ran­dom non­sense into my col­umn – not that any­one would no­tice any­way.

What you’re see­ing above is what Face­book has be­come, ex­cept the sec­ond part – the re­ally loud, re­ally shouty bit in BLOCK CAP­I­TALS – well, imag­ine that blast­ing out of a speaker on the back of this mag­a­zine as soon as you flicked open the page, like one of those crappy nov­elty birth­day cards. That’s what Face­book has be­come.

A cou­ple of weeks ago, Face­book took the in­fu­ri­at­ing de­ci­sion to make its mo­bile app play videos with sound au­to­mat­i­cally. So, if you’re sit­ting on the bus, in the doc­tor’s wait­ing room or any­where in pub­lic and casually open the Face­book app, you and ev­ery­one else around you will be sub­ject to a ran­dom au­dio as­sault of what­ever ap­pears in your time­line. Ad­verts, foot­ball clips, prank videos or the James Cor­den Car­pool Karaoke quoted ear­lier, which blasted out of my phone when I fired up Face­book this morn­ing.

Face­book, of course, pleads that it’s do­ing us a favour. “We’re al­ways work­ing to make Face­book a bet­ter place to watch videos,” claims the pop-up mes­sage in­tro­duc­ing this rot­ten fea­ture. “That’s why videos now play with the sound on au­to­mat­i­cally.”

Ex­cept no­body else thinks this makes life bet­ter. Au­to­play­ing ads have be­come such a nui­sance that Ap­ple now blocks them from play­ing in the lat­est ver­sion of its Sa­fari browser for Mac OS. The Coali­tion For Bet­ter Ads also rails against au­to­play­ing video with sound. “This ad ex­pe­ri­ence is es­pe­cially dis­rup­tive be­cause it catches the reader off guard and of­ten com­pels them to quickly close the win­dow or tab in or­der to stop the sound,” the Coali­tion states, “es­pe­cially if they are on their mo­bile de­vice and in a pub­lic place, where such noise can be a pub­lic nui­sance and per­sonal em­bar­rass­ment.” Guess who’s a mem­ber of the Coali­tion? I’ll give you a clue: it starts with an ‘ F’ and ends in ‘ace­book’.

Au­to­play­ing noisy videos is a fea­ture lit­er­ally no­body asked for – ex­cept the ad­ver­tis­ers them­selves. Face­book will have stud­ied the met­rics and seen that au­to­play­ing videos have a far higher ‘en­gage­ment’ rate than those that re­quire the user to push a Play but­ton. Now you’ll have ad­ver­tis­ers and other video pro­duc­ers cram­ming the first few sec­onds of their videos with shouty au­dio to make sure they at­tract your at­ten­tion be­fore your thumb flicks them off the screen.

The only thing that pre­vented me from unin­stalling Face­book the mo­ment this fea­ture was ac­ti­vated was that there’s an op­tion to switch it off. On An­droid, open the menu in the top right-cor­ner of the Face­book app, scroll all the way down to App Set­tings and make sure ‘ Videos in News Feed start with sound’ is switched off. Au­to­play videos haven’t ap­peared in IOS yet, per­haps be­cause Ap­ple doesn’t tol­er­ate such non­sense.

Face­book is fast be­com­ing the anti-so­cial net­work and this fea­ture will cer­tainly cost it a few friends.

Au­to­play­ing noisy videos is a fea­ture lit­er­ally no­body asked for – ex­cept the ad­ver­tis­ers them­selves

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