Facebook's Video API lets brands push more and more video into your News Feed

Coming soon to a News Feed near you: More videos from brands and content creators, instead of your friends. Facebook rolled out an update to its Video API on Wednesday, and went over the details during a session at the company's F8 Developer Conference. The goal of these new features is to help creators better reach their audiences--which could be you. 

The bulk of these API updates have to do with control over viewership. Those who work with Facebook's Video API can now restrict the audience of the video by age, gender, and location--for example, limited videos to people living on the East Coast to eliminate TV spoilers, or pushing a video out to users who are at least 18 years old. Also new is the ability to publish a video directly to a Page without distributing it in News Feed, and the ability to batch-upload a bunch of videos at once without having them all get pushed to News Feed at once--you can schedule videos, set a video to be featured on a Page, and program a video playlist. 

Previously, when a video would get removed, all of the data from that video would disappear along with it. Now, you can schedule when a video will be taken down, and when it is removed, you can retain that video's data (likes, comments, shares, etc.). This feature is still in beta, however. 

Other new features include customizable video thumbnails, an option for subtitles, resumable uploading (if you hit a network gap while in the middle of uploading a video, it will pause and then restart when your connection comes back), and the option to receive real-time updates during the encoding process. Developers also have access to better video analytics to help track performance and engagement.

Why this matters: Note that all of these cool new video features are only available to users on Facebook's Video API--namely, media companies, brands, and "other video creators"--not the regular Facebook user. This gives participants a leg-up on targeting video to increase reach. So, if you interact with brands and other content-creation outlets on Facebook, you'll likely see a lot more video from them than you already do. Hopefully, it will at least be more relevant.

Facebook's massive video growth 

The good news is that some of these features may be integrated in the regular Facebook user interface at some point. Maher Saba, Facebook's director of engineering for video, hinted that a dedicated Video tab was a possibility, along with some of the functionality--like posting to your Page but not to News Feed, audience restriction, and resumable uploading.

According to Fidji Simo, Facebook's product management director of video, Facebook gets 3 billion videos viewed daily, with 65 percent of those views coming from mobile devices. Fifty-three percent of all views come from shares within Facebook, and that's expected to grow now that Facebook unrolled embeddable videos. 

With that kind of viewership, we should expect to see Facebook expand its video initiatives even further. They've already figured out what works best for their platform: Auto-play (what, at first, appears to be a still image starts moving "like a magical Harry Potter newspaper experience," according to Simo), the sound turned off by default, and videos that grab the user's attention in the first few seconds.

Next up, spherical videos--which we should learn more about on Thursday's Oculus Rift-focused F8 keynote--and perhaps continuous autoplay.


Leah Yamshon

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