With the recent success of the Ice Bucket Challenge videos (including our own CEO, Dave Caputo) to promote both awareness and fundraising for ALS, I noticed a number of these videos autoplaying in my personal Facebook feed.
Video autoplay is a feature Facebook began rolling out in the US last September for videos, and in December for video ads. A more international expansion of autoplaying video ads took place in May of this year with Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom all receiving this feature.
So what impact does autoplay have on networks? Below, we show a chart normalized for bandwidth consumption at the end of September 2013, for both a US mobile operator and a US fixed operator, showing the change in average bandwidth per user.
In the past year, Facebook traffic (depending on the day) increased by 60% on the mobile network, and by over 200% on the fixed network, driven (we believe) mainly by the addition of autoplay videos to the Facebook feed.
(Note: Yes, I see that large spike in fixed traffic in mid-July (19-21). It was observed at a number of our fixed customers. I reached out to Facebook for comment but they never responded. I could find no concerts or other streaming events that could have been the cause. If you know what the cool kids are doing on Facebook and have any thoughts, let me know.)
That may sound shocking, but if you think back to the time pre-autoplay, your Facebook page would have been mainly text and images. Add in video, which is essentially 24-30 photos being displayed in your feed each second, and you can see how the data quickly adds up.
Sharp rises in usage caused by video isn’t actually a new Phenomenon. When Instagram added video to their service in June of last year we observed a significant increase in bandwidth on networks across the globe.
The above data is taken from just two networks, and Facebook is famous for running multiple trials, and in one famous anecdote, they claim to have up to 1,000 different versions of the site for testing purposes at any one time. At this point it is unclear how fast or how slow the rollout of auto play is taking place around the world. Are they rolling it out to a small percentage of users at a time? Are they rolling it out at different rates to desktop users and mobile users? These are questions we have yet to investigate and answer.
For our upcoming 2H 2014 Global Internet Phenomena Report, I’m hoping to dig deeper into this subject. For that report I will get more data from various operators around the world which will help determine if this is a local or global phenomenon. Stay tuned for some answers.