Jun 16, 2015 · 2 minutes

After a preliminary test period, Twitter announced today that the company will launch auto-playing videos on a wider scale.

The videos work a lot like the ones shown on Facebook and Instagram. They'll play whenever a person scrolls past them -- muted, of course -- and if they pique that person's interest they can then be expanded to fill a smartphone's display.

Twitter's implementation of the tried-and-true gambit has a few twists, though: consumers will be able to choose not to see any of these automatically playing videos in their timelines, period, or if they'll only show up on a WiFi connection.

The company also said that consumers who are "somewhere with high data rates" or "low bandwidth" will be opted out of autoplay "to avoid unexpected charges or slow performance." It won't, in other words, screw its users over.

Facebook hasn't been similarly thoughtful. As I covered in 2014:

Besides incurring extra costs on outrageous phone bills, going over a carrier-imposed limit makes it harder to browse the Web, download apps, or stream music. If there’s just one guiding principle for application development, it should be 'don’t waste data.'

Facebook must have skipped that memo. Sandvine claims in a blog post that the company’s app has led to a 60 percent increase in data usage on some networks since it was updated to play all videos in a user’s News Feed whenever they appear on the screen, even over cellular networks. That was a big part of the reason why I was worried when reports surfaced last year about Twitter implementing the autoplaying videos it announced today:

It would be even worse for consumers if other applications, such as Twitter’s, started taking the same liberties with their mobile data. Access to that data is a resource for which Americans pay quite a lot of money; it should be up to them to decide how that data should be used, not up to companies that want to increase ad revenues by effectively stealing that precious data.

Besides, its “lean” nature was one of the best things about Twitter. It wasn’t cluttered with game requests, or countless photographs, or article-length status updates about mundane activities. Now it’s adding news summaries to its tweets, automatically displaying images, and considering the inclusion of auto-play videos. This birdie is getting awfully fat. Twitter seems to have sidestepped those concerns. It's making advertisers happy by introducing these videos, but it's also respecting its users by giving them control over when, or even if, these videos ever appear in their timelines.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]