Over the past few months, I’ve come dangerously close to exceeding my mobile data cap. As I write this, I’ve used 944 megabytes of my one gigabyte limit, with just hours left until my monthly reset.
I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve been using the same phone for a while now, with the same usage patterns – I think – as always. So what’s been chewing through all that extra data?
And then it dawned on me: Facebook. Facebook and its – excuse my French – $%#@ing autoplay videos. You know, the “feature” the company rolled out in December along with the biggest load-of-crap explanation yet foisted on Internet users:
Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time. From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.
If you use Facebook, you *know* what autoplay videos are. They’re the videos that, well, automatically play whenever they appear in your browser window. Thankfully, they don’t play sound unless you click on them, but they play silently and annoyingly nevertheless. And they chew up data.
This is, of course, a serious issue on mobile where data allowances are generally low and expensive (especially in Canada). Autoplay can be disabled completely on desktop web browsers, but with mobile devices your only option is to set the “feature” so that it only works over Wi-Fi. To do so with Apple devices, you go to Settings > Facebook > Settings > Auto-play on Wi-Fi only:
On Android, go into the Facebook app itself and select App Settings, then Auto-play on Wi-Fi only:
That said, videos that play automatically are a horrendously bad idea, even for a service that is otherwise free. Many reputable websites long ago learned that people hate pop-up ads and videos that start playing automatically (especially with sound), so Facebook’s decision to monetize in this manner is rather anachronistic, not to mention an overt middle-finger to established user preferences.
I, for one, really haven’t cared much about Facebook’s many privacy intrusions since I generally don’t put much personal information into it in the first place. But when Facebook starts costing me money by cynically using up precious data, or when it angers me by forcing me to look at things that I have no interest in… well, those are big lines to cross. Mark Zuckerberg really needs to think of a different way to make money and scrap this “feature” as soon as possible.