Facebook takes on TikTok with a new, vertical-first video player

Facebook is introducing a new full-screen video player on Wednesday, which offers a more consistent design and experience for all types of video lengths, including short reels, long videos and even live content. The upgraded player, which will launch for the first time in the United States and Canada, aims to streamline the experience of watching and sharing video content. But more importantly, it will display videos in vertical mode by default and will also allow Facebook to recommend the most relevant video to watch next, regardless of the video type: long, short or live.

This latest change could potentially affect key factors that creators and advertisers care about, like watch time, view count, reach, and more. For Facebook, on the other hand, having more people watch videos on the platform could allow it to increase time spent on site, as well as views and ad clicks, among other things. It also gives Facebook a way to better compete with other popular video platforms that rely on algorithmic recommendations, like YouTube and TikTok, because it expands the pool of possible recommendations to include more video formats.

Image credits: Meta

These improved recommendations will also appear outside of the player, on the Facebook Feed and Video tab. Additionally, Facebook said it would show users more Reels in the future, given the demand for short-form audio.

Facebook says its upgraded player will also offer new controls like a full-screen mode for horizontal videos and a slider for scrolling through longer videos. Additionally, users will be able to tap on the video to see more options for doing things, like pausing and rewinding or moving forward 10 seconds.

Image credits: Meta

Notably, the player will default to displaying videos in vertical mode, like TikTok, although users can access a full-screen option for horizontal videos that allows them to flip them to watch in landscape mode. TikTok, in comparison, has also been testing horizontal videos and 30-minute long content as it seeks to compete with YouTube and other sites.

Facebook’s Reader will first roll out to iOS and Android devices in the United States and Canada before expanding globally in the coming months.

An improved video viewing experience could also help Facebook capture the attention of younger audiences.

Image credits: Meta

Although Facebook has lost popularity with Gen Z over the past decade, the New York Times recently reported that many young people are now turning to the site for its Marketplace. This gives Facebook the opportunity to try to capture their attention in other ways, on the site, including through Gen Z’s favorite social format, video.

There are other indications that young people are also starting to rediscover Facebook. An NBC News report indicated that Generation Z was ramping up the “Facebook poke” – a long-forgotten gesture that was a simple way of saying hello. In March, Facebook announced that it had seen a 13-fold increase in the number of pokes over the past month, for example.

The timing of the video player change also comes at a time when US lawmakers are considering a possible ban on TikTok, which, if passed, could increase video consumption on other social platforms.


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