Do you remember when Facebook didn’t have any advertisements? That was a long time ago, and it was always inevitable that ads would infiltrate our timelines. Fair enough—it is a free service, after all, and Facebook has to generate income to keep it going. Over time, however, they’ve become more pervasive and, in some cases, annoying. Like autoplaying videos. And soon, you could see video ads in Messenger while chatting privately with your friends and family members.
Ads are not new to Messenger—they have been around for about a year in a half. But what is new to Messenger is the presence of video ads that appear in users’ inboxes, next to messages from their contacts. It’s currently being trialed to select users, and where implemented, the video ads start to play automatically.
We can already see where this is headed. Nobody likes ads (other than advertisers, of course), and as this rolls out to more users, the outcry will get bigger. That’s our prediction anyway, and it seems like a reasonable one. Autoplaying video ads in chat just seems a bit too annoying and obtrusive. Interestingly, Facebook is aware of this, but wants to try things out anyway and see how it goes. If (or more likely when) the push back from users gets big enough, Facebook will reassess.
“Top priority for us is user experience,” said Stefanos Loukakos, head of Messenger’s ad business. “So we don’t know yet [if these will work]. However, signs until now, when we tested basic ads, didn’t show any changes with how people used the platform or how many messages they send. Video might be a bit different, but we don’t believe so.”
Facebook said in a statement to Quartz that the video ads will roll out “gradually and thoughtfully,” whatever that means (we get the gradual part, but not necessary the thoughtful part). Facebook also said that users will be in control. However, that doesn’t mean users will be able to opt out of receiving ads in Messenger, just that they’ll be able to hide or report an ad, and managed targeting preferences.
It’s a slippery slope Facebook is embarking here. There are plenty of alternatives to Messenger, and we have a feeling this will push users to seek them out.
Top Image Source: Flickr via Anthony Quintano