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article imageFacebook videos now play with sound by default

By James Walker     Feb 15, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has announced a small but significant change to the way it delivers videos on mobile devices. Videos will now play with sound by default, leading to bursts of audio as you scroll through your news feed. The controversial change can be reversed.
Facebook videos already start playing automatically when you stop to look at them as you browse your feed. You currently have to explicitly tap the video to start hearing audio, ensuring you don't accidentally blare out sound in public or have to listen to clips you're not interested in.
"People expect sound"
This behaviour is now being changed though. Awkward moments in public could become more regular as Facebook has announced News Feed videos will soon start playing audio by default. The sound will fade in and out as you scroll through the content in your feed.
Facebook said it has received positive feedback from early testers of the feature. The company claimed people have "come to expect sound" to play when watching videos, becoming frustrating at having to enable it for individual posts. Refusing to heed scepticism from users, the feature is being pitched as a "richer, more engaging" approach to video.
"People are watching and sharing more video on Facebook than ever, and we're focused on continuously improving the video experience," said Facebook. "As people watch more video on phones, they've come to expect sound when the volume on their device is turned on. After testing sound in News Feed and hearing positive feedback, we're slowly bringing it to more people."
Can be disabled
Although Facebook is keen to tout the benefits, auto-playing video remains a controversial social media feature. Adding sound to the mix isn't likely to win over currently critical customers. Apparently in recognition that people still want control, Facebook will allow you to disable automatic sound playback, returning the News Feed to its silent past.
The new feature will be turned on automatically by default. Facebook will display banners in the app providing guidance on how to disable the behaviour. It's controlled by a new "Videos in News Feed Start With Sound" toggle in the Settings menu.
As well as the option to completely disable auto-playing sound, Facebook will also intelligently mute News Feed videos if it detects your phone is on silent. This should help avoid inadvertent embarrassment that the feature could cause.
Alongside auto-play with sound, Facebook is also rolling out two more new video features designed to trap users in content for long. Vertical video previews have been redesigned to show a clearer, larger image that fits better on the display. Additionally, when you start playing a video, you can now keep scrolling your News Feed and watch the content in a picture-in-picture view. On Android devices, you can even continue playing the clip if you leave the Facebook app.
The new features are rolling out now to Facebook's mobile apps on iOS and Android. As ever, it may be a little while before the update lands on every device.
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