Oh, great: Facebook is focusing more on its data-hungry video business
Facebook announced over the weekend that it will now tell its users how many times a video has been watched on its service and recommend other videos for them to watch, making the social network more like YouTube and all of its video-centric, advertiser-friendly goodness.
It isn't hard to guess why Facebook might want to bolster its video offering. YouTube's ads are said to have the highest conversion rate in the business, and the service is more than just a video platform -- it's a social network, a music service, a digital marketplace, and a video host. Facebook needs to somehow compete with that mega-service to keep all its advertisers happy.
Facebook notes in its announcement that its applications automatically play videos for many users, and that the feature's settings are "easily customizable on both mobile and web," which might be a subtle response to claims that the auto-play feature has led to a 60 percent increase on some networks in the amount of data people are using each month, according to a blog post from Sandvine.
That's the biggest problem with Facebook's attempt to become a video platform: it feels entitled to volunteer its users' wireless data in its efforts to please advertisers. Many people have limits on how much data they can use each month, and the fees for exceeding those limits can be high, which means that Facebook's sense of entitlement could actually be quite costly to consumers.
I wrote about Facebook's willingness to incur more costs for its users to placate advertisers when the Sandvine post about Facebook's effect on wireless data usage was published, and I included some information about Facebook's other plan to suck up more of its users' data:
This isn’t the only time Facebook has decided that its users can spare a few megabytes here and there to boost engagement or appease advertisers. The company announced in August that it was introducing “bandwidth targeting,” which would change the advertisement shown to a user based on the speed of their wireless data connection in “high-growth countries” such as India.
Through this system, people with faster data connections might be shown a video while people with slower connections might just see a banner advertisement. The user doesn’t have any say in the matter; Facebook has decided that it and its advertisers have a right to use a consumer’s wireless data connection as it sees fit, and it doesn’t much care what its users think about that. Now it seems that Facebook is going to be focusing even more on video, and that should elicit a groan from anyone using the company's applications who is worried about data overages. These are the things it was willing to do when video was just a side project; it's hard to imagine what it might do now that it's focusing on videos even more than it has in the past, but I'm willing to bet that it's not going to be nice for many users' mobile phone bills.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]