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article imageFacebook testing video preloads over Wi-Fi connections

By James Walker     Sep 12, 2017 in Technology
Facebook's testing a feature that'll make it easier to watch videos while you're away from home. The experimental addition allows videos to preload while you're connected to Wi-Fi. Next time you open the News Feed, the videos will be ready to play.
The feature was spotted by TechCrunch this week. It's currently available to a small number of users as Facebook completes its development. Called Instant Videos, the capability could be an attempt to boost viewership of Facebook videos by making the platform more accessible.
Unlike competing video services such as YouTube, Facebook is frequented by people who regularly visit while on the go for check-in browsing sessions of only a few minutes. As the company emphasises video as its preferred content type, this presents a problem. If users have to wait for a video to start playing, they're unlikely to engage with it at all.
To Facebook, it's essential videos load with a minimal buffering time. The social network also has to be mindful of mobile data allowances, poor quality network connections and the possibility of frustrating the user. As it tries to establish itself as a full video platform, a sluggish loading experience could put people off viewing content in its app.
Instant Videos seems to be an attempt to alleviate some of the issues. By silently downloading videos on Wi-Fi, Facebook can ensure the News Feed's always populated with immediately available content. The strategy saves on mobile data and eliminates loading times, potentially triggering increased engagement amongst users.
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Instant Videos could also be an attempt to make Facebook a more appealing place to publishers. Coming after its Instant Articles solution for fast-loading webpages, Facebook may use Instant Videos to convince more content producers to work with its platform. The prospect of higher engagement and reduced friction in the user experience could sway some publishers.
While it has clear benefits, Instant Videos isn't without a big caveat though. For users who have limited storage space, video preloads might not be an attractive idea. With Facebook's aggressive caching already a large capacity consumer, some users will disable the feature as soon as it arrives.
For people who find their mobile browsing more constrained by their cell plan, Instant Videos holds promise though. It's also a way for Facebook to differentiate itself from the likes of YouTube and Snapchat. Cutting down the loading time offers slightly longer browsing sessions, making it more probable users will go on to watch another video.
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