A few days ago, BGR connected the dots on some Facebook rumors and came to the conclusion that the social media giant will soon be rolling out 15-second auto-play video ads on your Facebook news feed. Currently, sponsored content is confined to the sidebars and is not invasive in the same way those blaring car commercials on TV are. But Facebook’s forthcoming monetization strategy may change all that. In short, as BGR said: “Using Facebook is about to get a lot more annoying.”
When developments like this occur, there are droves of Facebook users who resolve to permanently delete their Facebook accounts when the big one hits. But if you haven’t already quit Facebook, you aren’t likely to anytime soon. Because face it: Facebook is now a part of life for many of us. I, for one, won’t be abandoning Facebook. And while I am a bit concerned about the annoying factor of video ads, I think I’ll be able to manage. As with most advertising on the Internet, I expect there to be ways to opt out of auto-play Facebook video ads—both officially and unofficially.
Here are a few things I’m going to try if and when Facebook decides to start making some money with new advertising schemes. You should try them too:
1. Enable Click to Play in Chrome and Firefox
Last year, Austin wrote up an excellent tutorial on How to Improve Browsing Security in Chrome by Enabling Click to Play.
This disables all plugin content—be it Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, Java or other browser plug-ins—until you click the widget or player to enable it. In essence, it blocks auto-play. This could come in handy when Facebook rolls out auto playback videos.
For Firefox users:
1. Type about:config into the address button.
2. Read the warning and click the “I’ll be careful” button.
3. Search for plugins.click_to_play.
4. Double-click the plugins.click_to_play preference name to toggle it to true.
2. Change Age in Facebook
Gender and Birth Date. In addition to name and email address, we require you to provide your gender and birth date during the registration process. We ask for your date of birth to verify that you are 13 or older, and so that we can better limit your access to content and advertisements that are not age appropriate. Because your date of birth and gender are required, you cannot delete them. You can, however, edit your profile to hide all (or part) of such fields from other users.
So, you can’t delete your birthday. But you can make the data less useful to advertisers by pretending to be ancient (that is, up to 106 years old—apparently, Facebook has something against people older than 107, not to mention intersex people).
(Also note that Facebook will only allow you to change your birthday once. This rule is new since that time I changed my birthday every day for a week, causing people to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY on my wall for seven days straight. )
What I hope this will do is screen me out of certain targeted ads. I don’t know if “males over the age of 100” is a big demographic for marketers. I imagine it has to be smaller than the demographic I am truly in.
3. Disable Auto-Play Videos in Mobile Facebook App Settings
For the mobile Facebook app, you won’t be able to enable click-to-play like you can in Chrome or Firefox. But if Instagram’s InstaVid is any precedent, you should be able to disable auto-play videos in the Facebook app once it rolls out. Remember, Facebook bought up Instagram, and it’s highly likely that they’ll leverage the same technology for their commercial auto-play videos.
In the Instagram iOS app, disabling auto-play videos is as easy as going into your preferences and turning Auto-Play Videos off. I expect it to be that simple for Facebook, too.
4. Switch to Google+
The above steps are the ones I’m going to take if and when Facebook starts getting aggressive with its video ads. But I’ll admit I am not a particularly heavy Facebook user, so it may not be much of a battle for me. What I’m really curious about is what you are going to do and what your experience with Facebook’s auto-play video ads will be.
So, would you like to do me a favor? Let me know what you are doing to combat invasive Facebook ads. And in a few months or a year or however long it takes for this to shake down, let me know how it worked out. I’m very curious. And the more knowledge and data we collect, the better we can collectively help others make Facebook as non-annoying as possible.
Email me or leave a comment if you’d like to throw in your two cents about Facebook advertising.