A History of Auto-Play Videos … in 6-15 Seconds

April 28, 2016

A video-sharing renaissance is in full swing. While YouTube is arguably the O.G. video-sharing trend-setter, Vine has taken it to the next level by introducing it to and entwining it with social media. The Twitter-owned app, launched January 2013, allows users to easily film six-second videos with their smartphones just by tapping their screens and instantly post them to their Vine and Twitter pages. After only four months on the market, it became the all-time most downloaded free app from the iOS Apple store. Just a few months later, Instagram rolled out their own video feature, upping the ante to a 15-second limit and sweetening the pot for advertisers to start using the apps for brand engagement.

Example: Oreo’s social media branding is simple, fun and fits in with the do-it-yourself, amateur style of the app.


Typically, the looping videos start immediately when scrolled to, or need a soft tap to get going. Facebook is now aiming to harness this instant-play video power by becoming a platform that not only allows video to be shared – as it has been doing for some time – but do it in a way that makes watching almost unavoidable … actualizing the dreams of content creators everywhere.

In September 2013, Facebook started rolling out this new feature, allowing users to have their videos play instantly on their friends’ News Feeds. By December, the feature became more commonplace and Facebook blogged about the inevitable next step: advertising, starting with mobile users.

It's a smart move considering mobile users are three times more likely to watch social videos than desktop viewers, and with 85% of smartphone users in 2013 using social media apps, that’s a whole lot of potential consumers habitually and obsessively checking their News Feeds and profile pages.

Neither video app has advertising that appears independently from the videos themselves, but that hasn’t stopped savvy social media departments from embracing and creating videos that blend in with the user-created content. The same can be applied to Facebook, and should; although brands will have a new chance to create what are essentially auto-play commercials that will play in innumerable news feeds and reach the largest of social media audiences at a new level, the format/voice established by the pioneering apps should not abandoned, especially because Instagram is owned by Facebook (how convenient – sorry, Viners).

That’s not to say that every video has to be a masterpiece of craft … but, if done right, 6 -15 seconds will be more than enough to leave an impression.