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Autoplay video comes to the mobile web

News, 22 September 2016

NEW YORK: Apple and Google have enabled video content to play automatically in the latest editions of their mobile web browsers, a step which marketers are likely to welcome but which may infuriate users.

Tech companies frequently appropriate ideas from each other – the most notable recent example being Instagram copying Snapchat Stories – and Facebook has for some time offered autoplay video, with audio muted, in users' News Feeds.

"I think this will result in an increase in video plays and video use in general," said Albert Lai, chief technology officer at online video platform Brightcove.

Some ad tech companies are already adding this option, the Wall Street Journal reported, such as JW Player, whose clients include the Washington Post, Hearst, Vice and Mashable.

Jeroen Wijering, head of product at JW Player, expected that "when people start adjusting their video players and websites there will be a significant uptick for publishers in terms of video plays".

While there are obvious attractions for publishers and advertisers, the benefits are not so clear for users.

At a time when the industry is fretting about the effects of ad blocking, introducing what some may see as yet more intrusive or distracting advertising may not play well. Plus more video means more data which could increase what people have to pay to their mobile provider.

"If you're visiting a lot of sites with autoplay video then the bandwidth bill will be coming after that," Wijering said.

Neither he nor Lai were clear on whether it would be possible to insert pre-roll ads into mobile autoplay video – Google and Apple weren't telling either – but Lai saw potential for branded content.

"I think this is a great opportunity for companies offering branded content to take advantage of, in a responsible manner," he said.

It also means that advertisers may be able to easily repurpose existing Facebook creative to work in mobile browers.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff