One of the top changes Facebook made to the user experience in 2014 was forcing videos that show up in news feeds – both desktop and mobile – to autoplay a silent preview. This was the beginning of a trend to invest heavily in video, a trend that has allowed Facebook to surpass YouTube as the video platform with the most monthly views online.
While the numbers are a little fudged – Facebook’s lower view standards and autoplays stand up to YouTube’s complex algorithm to filter out bot traffic – the fact remains that Facebook is focusing more and more on video for the coming years.
2015 is going to be a year of video on Facebook, and it’s going to be a great time for Facebook marketers to invest heavily in their own video marketing.
The event making the news in this January relating to Facebook video is the company’s acquisition of QuickFire Networks. What is this company and why is it such big news?
Well, for one thing, anything is big news in the corporate world. When a company as large as Facebook makes a move, that move is scrutinized from every possible angle to figure out what it means for the rest of the Internet at large. In this case, it’s clear that QuickFire has one purpose within Facebook: video advertising.
Facebook Video Limitations
For a long time, Facebook has been pushing to get people to upload their videos directly to the platform, rather than upload them to YouTube and link to the video page on Facebook. This has led to a number of changes, including Facebook’s subtle demotion of the importance of video links, particularly from their Google-owned competitor.
The problem with this is how difficult Facebook makes it to upload a video, particularly with their limitations on format, size, aspect ratio and quality. Facebook wants you to post your videos, but they don’t want to be flooded with vertically-oriented cell phone videos, low quality webcam captures or videos so long and so large they chew through a mobile data plan in one viewing.
The precise restrictions on videos are:
- An aspect ratio of 9:16 to 16:9. Anything too far outside of those dimensions is rejected automatically, though the 16:9 ratio is best for display on Facebook’s news feed and mobile app.
- A framerate of 30. Anything less looks bad regardless of platform. Unfortunately, anything higher than 30 will be cut down by Facebook to an extreme. A 100fps video would be chopped down to 25fps, destroying the value of the framerate in the first place.
- One gigabyte. Videos larger than one gig may be accepted, particularly if they’re only slightly above the limit, but they also risk rejection.
- 20-30 minutes long at the most. To some extent, the length restrictions are dictated by verification of the account. Either way, any video longer than about 20 minutes will likely be rejected.
These restrictions cut off what YouTube is truly good at; high quality, lengthy, fluid videos.
Another problem with this on Facebook is that, despite the restrictions, videos can still take a long time to load, particularly at the higher end of quality and length. A 20 minute video in 720p can be sizable, making it difficult to display with the autoplay feature in a timely manner.
QuickFire makes a unique piece of technology that does one thing, and one thing only. It takes a high quality video and makes it smaller, while maintaining quality. Where your 20-minute, 30fps 720p video may be 1 gig before, QuickFire’s encoding will reduce the filesize to only 500 mb without sacrificing quality.
Those numbers are just estimations, of course. Until QuickFire’s technology is completely implemented, there’s no way to tell exactly how big of an impact the software will have.
Regardless of the scale of the impact, one thing is clear; it will be easier to serve videos uploaded to Facebook than it ever has been before. The strain on both Facebook’s servers and on the client devices will drop, meaning mobile users in particular will be able to view more videos, more often, within their data limits.
Video Moving Forward
This will have a minimal impact on the average Facebook user. Most people rarely care about the quality of their videos; they’re uploading directly from their phones and they’re only posting videos for a small handful of viewers.
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum, amongst popular video creators, Facebook is still not quite within their goals. The limits on file size, length and quality all mean that some of the best producers will still be limited to video-dedicated sites like YouTube, Vimeo or DailyMotion.
The people most likely to care about the video’s impact on their viewers, while simultaneously producing videos within the various restrictions Facebook puts forth, will be Facebook marketers. Combine this with Facebook’s video advertising push, and you can easily see where it’s all going; Facebook wants to make videos more accessible, and thus make them more valuable. More valuable videos mean Facebook can charge more for the ads that power them, earning the site more money from marketers.
The question that will come to the fore in 2015 will be an interesting one. Which will win the race? On one side, you have Facebook pushing video as a new means of marketing. You have Facebook’s Atlas threatening to expand their reach on a global scale. You have the sheer amount of momentum coming from users and businesses too entrenched to abandon the platform.
On the other side, you have Facebook’s increasingly hostile presence for competitors. You have Facebook’s insistence on making itself the hub through which everything travels. You have declining organic reach and other factors all combining to make the site look cash-greedy. Some experts predict 2015 as the year Facebook truly begins to die. Will this new infusion of video be the act that saves it? Stay tuned for the next few months to find out.