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Facebook Cellphones Networking Social Networks The Almighty Buck

Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-like-this dept.
colinneagle writes "Consumer site MoneySavingExpert.com reported today that it has seen "many complaints" from users who believe a recent increase in data-related charges on their cellphone bills are the result of Facebook's auto-play feature. The default setting for the auto-play feature launches and continues to play videos silently until the user either scrolls past it or clicks on it; if the user does the latter, the video then goes full-screen and activates audio. The silent auto-play occurs regardless of whether users are connected to Wi-Fi, LTE, or 3G.

However, it's likely that Facebook isn't entirely to blame for this kind of trend, but rather, with the debut of its auto-play feature, threw gas on an already growing fire of video-sharing services. Auto-play for video is a default setting on Instagram's app, although the company refers to it as "preload." Instagram only introduced video last summer, after the Vine app, a Twitter-backed app that auto-plays and loops six-second videos, started to see significant growth.
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Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone

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  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:13AM (#47823307) Journal

    Security whining about Facebook aside, there's a plethora of countries where your 3g/4g data limit per month is quite low. I've just come off a 600mb per month plan to 1gb. I only use about 300mb per month but I have on holiday gone up to about 800+mb in a month.

    The cost however, when you exceed your limit is _insane_ auto playing videos which you can't damn well stop is idiocy. They should have either a wifi only option or a play button. (I had the same issue with vice videos in twitter for a while too)

    Too many companies continue to take their product, fiddle / fuck with it for the sake of change (keeping UI designers in a job I suspect) and then antagonise their users. Google maps is a prime example, the new google maps is AWFUL compared to the existing one, lacking several key features. Please, stop fiddling and changing things.

    • by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:28AM (#47823345)

      In general auto-playing video is awful. I particularly hate it on news sites. For me it was the biggest reason for noscript.

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        For me it was the biggest reason for noscript.

        Flashblock, surely?

        Makes me think: is auto-playing HTML5 video a possibility? If so, can this easily be disabled in browsers' settings?

        • Flashblock, surely?

          Makes me think: is auto-playing HTML5 video a possibility? If so, can this easily be disabled in browsers' settings?

          Flashblock will block HTML5 videos too.

        • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @08:21AM (#47824481)

          Makes me think: is auto-playing HTML5 video a possibility?

          Yes, there's a standard way to specify autoplay for HTML5 videos. However, not all browsers will respect it. For example, Safari on iOS won't play unless the user specifically starts the video, and this was a deliberate decision on Apple's part.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Why isn't flashblock doing it for me? I have used it for a long time, but lately some sites including slate.com still seem to be able to auto-play videos on me? Anybody else have this problem?
        • Probably would have made sense to have started there but I started with noscript instead. I got it to stop audio and videos on websites and now it is on just about everywhere.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        In general auto-playing video is awful. I particularly hate it on news sites. For me it was the biggest reason for noscript.

        Now if only Google offered the option to turn off autoplay videos on YouTube. (Embeds don't auto-play, but direct links to YouTube.com do).. It's fine on Firefox (NoScript/etc) but not on Chrome short of blocking YouTube itself.

    • by Aboroth (1841308)
      No kidding, data plans in Germany are atrocious. I only get 100MB/month. There's more expensive plans but in my opinion the data cap for 4G is always too low for too little money. I expected a lot less retardery after hearing for so long about how much better Europe is for cell phones.
      • by Aboroth (1841308)
        Erm, that is, the 4G cap is too low for too much money. That's what I get for not adjusting my sleep schedule properly.
      • by AvitarX (172628)

        How low for how much?

        I'm just curious because the Europeans always yammer about how much better it is there.

    • by pabacon (903935) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @04:04AM (#47823555)

      They should have either a wifi only option or a play button

      There actually are options for wifi-only or to disable auto-play entirely but yes, one of these should be the default.

    • by Camael (1048726) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @04:24AM (#47823603)

      Too many companies continue to take their product, fiddle / fuck with it for the sake of change (keeping UI designers in a job I suspect) and then antagonise their users. Google maps is a prime example, the new google maps is AWFUL compared to the existing one, lacking several key features. Please, stop fiddling and changing things.

      In this case, I believe that it was a deliberate change forced on their users because it will directly benefit Facebook. Auto-play artificially increases the click-thru rate (or whatever method they are using to measure user interaction with ads these days). Facebook can then show these inflated numbers to advertisers to justify their premium rates.

      "Hey, you pay more to place video ads on Facebook but its worth it because most (all) of the viewers will see it/click on it!"

      This again drives home that to Facebook, we are not its customers, we are it's product.

      • Too many companies continue to take their product, fiddle / fuck with it for the sake of change (keeping UI designers in a job I suspect) and then antagonise their users. Google maps is a prime example, the new google maps is AWFUL compared to the existing one, lacking several key features. Please, stop fiddling and changing things.

        In this case, I believe that it was a deliberate change forced on their users because it will directly benefit Facebook.

        It's one of the (great many) reasons why using web apps for business frequently sounds nuts to me.

        How often over the years have we heard stuff like "we can't switch from Office to OpenOffice because of the costs involved in retraining everyone to use a different UI"? Well with a "cloud app" you have *exactly* this problem, coupled with the fact that you usually get no notice that it's going to happen - you just log in one day and everything's moved around.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Except that Facebook doesn't auto-play video adverts, only user posted content. It also gives you the option to disable it, and on a mobile device it also gives you the option to auto-play on wifi only.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      The cost however, when you exceed your limit is _insane_ auto playing videos which you can't damn well stop is idiocy. They should have either a wifi only option or a play button. (I had the same issue with vice videos in twitter for a while too)

      Facebook has provided this. Just hit settings and turn off autoplay videos and you get a lovely little play icon.

      This article is another big whine on behalf of users who don't bother to actually hit a settings button or Google a problem.

      • Facebook has provided this. Just hit settings and turn off autoplay videos and you get a lovely little play icon.

        This article is another big whine on behalf of users who don't bother to actually hit a settings button or Google a problem.

        That's news to me. Thanks for telling me. Default setting adjusted.

        Also relevant to your "everybody already knows" attitude, there's an XKCD for that [xkcd.com]. No, everybody does not know about it.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          My attitude is not about "everyone already knows" it's actually deep dismay that people can't do something as basic as click a settings button these days.

          We have completely changed from a world of customized setups to expecting a 100% turnkey solution and that anything even remotely relevant should be presented to us in a Wizard. Not everyone knows, but before the problem should get to the stage of a sensationalist news piece people should at least check their settings or type the problem in to google where

    • by pla (258480)
      Too many companies continue to take their product, fiddle / fuck with it for the sake of change (keeping UI designers in a job I suspect) and then antagonise their users. Google maps is a prime example, the new google maps is AWFUL compared to the existing one, lacking several key features. Please, stop fiddling and changing things.

      I agree with you completely (in particular about the new god-awful Google Maps interface, hell, it makes Beta almost look like a role-model of useability by comparison), but I
  • I use Chrome and Firefox and autoplay is driving me nuts. Is there an auto-play killer out there?

    • by Tukz (664339) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:47AM (#47823521) Journal

      You can disable it you know.

      Settings -> Videos -> Auto-play Videos [off].

      • by c (8461)

        You can disable it you know.

        Settings -> Videos -> Auto-play Videos [off].

        Facebook has this interesting habit of reverting settings to default when the app updates. I don't think it's every time, but often enough to surprise someone.

        They can remember that time you Liked and then promptly Unliked that stupid fart joke, but try to get them to remember the settings you explicitly set...

        • by Tukz (664339)

          My Facebook app on my phone is still set to "off", so mine hasn't reset.

          But since OP mentioned 2 browsers, my instructions was for how to disable it in a browser, and not the mobile app.

          • by c (8461)

            My Facebook app on my phone is still set to "off", so mine hasn't reset.

            Could be a Cyanogenmod thing, then. I won't use the Facebook app without some form of App Ops to lock it down, so I can't say for sure what it does otherwise.

            But since OP mentioned 2 browsers, my instructions was for how to disable it in a browser, and not the mobile app.

            Ah, sorry. The OP didn't show up (non-Beta comments with ignore threads have interesting filter behaviours) and the article *is* about cellphones...

            • and people access the facebook with their cellphones using browsers like chrome and firefox...

              • by c (8461)

                and people access the facebook with their cellphones using browsers like chrome and firefox...

                Yes, and I did this until I switched to CM, but I strongly suspect those people are a distinct minority.

                • by Tukz (664339)

                  Actually, after learning about the ridiculous access privileges the Facebook app requires, I switched in a heartbeat and I know several people who did as well.
                  And as a bonus, now chat works directly from Facebook, and doesn't require an App that have even more ridiculous access privileges requirement.

                  I strongly encourage people to use Facebook directly from the browser and not from the App.

                  • by c (8461)

                    Actually, after learning about the ridiculous access privileges the Facebook app requires

                    Cyanogenmod with privacy guard locks Facebook down enough for me, but yes, that's the main reason I'd be using a browser otherwise.

                    The main advantage of using the app is smoother performance, bandwidth use seems somewhat lower (hard to tell for sure since if you use the browser it's aggregated with all the other browser traffic), and uploading things like pictures and video is far less hassle.

                    But generally speaking, I a

        • And my eyes can detect when it's on and reset it again.

          Start putting the blame on stupid people for going over their data limits. There are plenty of tools to monitor usage and alert when the limits are reached. At most, it should only happen once to somebody. After that, they are either too lazy to do anything about it, or too stupid to own such a complex device.

  • by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:32AM (#47823355)
    Have you ever seen documentaries where poor people have to spend hours every day getting clean water, and it just makes you step back and realize how fucking easy you have it to have clean water on tap at all times? That's how I feel looking at the cellphone data situation in the US. I'm paying for the single cheapest cellphone plan I can get here in Taiwan, and I get 1.5gb of data with that. And that limit only kicks in after the first six months of free unlimited data expires.

    Sure, the facebook design is absolutely retarded, but I don't come close to my limit despite using facebook as a primary means of communication with most of my friends and family. Point your anger in the right direction.
    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      It's that cheap/easy in the US too, just people whine about it. I get the cheapest and it's 1 gig for $30/month, and after that it throttles down, it doesn't charge extra.

      And realistically, I can't see people using more than a couple megs of data on low-quality Facebook videos.

      • by MrL0G1C (867445)

        That is expensive.

        A quick hunt finds 1GB in the UK costing $12.45

        $30 would buy you unlimited data, unlimited texts and 2000 minutes of phone time to most networks (ie not premium rate).

        And realistically, I can't see people using more than a couple megs of data on low-quality Facebook videos.

        Then you must be blind.

    • I live in Taiwan too. I'm on the Taiwan mobile prepaid plan which is 2gb for 300 nt (around 10 us dollars). Can i ask how much you're paying?

    • Unlimited 4G data for 34,50 euros / month.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      I don't see where is says people complaining about extra charges are from the US. I'm from the US and get unlimited data and phone calls for a reasonable price.
  • The underlying problem is the perpetual screwing that US mobile carriers inflict on customers. How they can defend the devolution of options is perplexing. No great alternatives so we must pay to play. I have lived outside the US for 6 years (while still paying for my US Verizon 5-phone family plan) and from Cyprus to Germany to South Korea the mobile plans are better priced, more robust, and reasonably fair to the consumer.

  • I love how the first comparison with Facebook is to Instagram...

    I think someone needs a reminder as to who owns Instagram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]

  • by ruir (2709173) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:30AM (#47823483) Homepage
    Lets face it. Wifi data plans are a big scam. Operators do not want you to use data plans because they want to screw you with the calls, and do not want 1) people giving up voice and using only voip 2) killing all the revenue on international calls 3) often they are in bed with your local cable operator, or worse, they are an arm of it. For all those that have no alternative than using mobile Internet for PC connectivity, it is quite simple to install Flash+facebook+adblocking software to save on you bill. Nevertheless, it is worth to point out that a 1GB plan wont get you nowhere, and it is really not enough on this days. Back in here, I only use wifi, but then I have wifi at home and at work, and also we have a huge FON infra-structure here, where we can pretty much find a FON hotspot nearby.
  • Farcebook is a worthless application that has no inherent value other than wasting time and advertising how we live our daily activities. Who cares that I went to the mall, who cares that I hiked 10 miles, geez, and better yet let me advertise when I am not going to be home for the thieves to come ransack my home. This is an application that need to go away.

    • It also allows me to stay in easy contact with people who have moved away, or whom I've lost track of, and that's useful. I don't really care who went to what mall when, but I can know how a distant cousin's pregnancy is doing without having her send out information to lots of people herself.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the kind of thing that conveniently makes the case for anti-neutrality by making products like Facebook Zero [wikipedia.org] look like a good deal.

    I doubt that anyone at facebook or any other company explicitly designed their apps this way in order to promote "zero" services, but at the same time I think their interest in pushing facebook zero is a disincentive to correcting the problem.

  • by scrib (1277042) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @04:16AM (#47823583)

    I started a shared data pool plan for my family and my brother's usage was estimated at about 2GB per month. A couple weeks into the billing cycle I checked usage and my brother had used MORE data than the other FIVE of us combined, and was on track to use over 5GB! We talked about it and it turned out he had the new facebook app installed and complained that the videos had started autoplaying. He found it annoying. We did a quick search and found that the DEFAULT setting is to autoplay videos as you scroll past them, regardless of the connection type.

    We changed the setting to "Wi-Fi Only" (or never) and nothing else about his usage. His average daily bandwidh went from 150MB to 50MB.

    Facebook's new, annoying, default setting was on track to add 3GB PER MONTH of data usage! (30 days * 100MB)

    We were lucky to be on a new plan with 6 people that I was monitoring to make sure we had the right data plan. An extra 3GB of data sent to a casual users ought to earn Facebook some kickbacks from cellphone providers!

    • by rwv (1636355)

      An extra 3GB of data sent to a casual users ought to earn Facebook some kickbacks from cellphone providers!

      So maybe that's their new business model? Deliver content, earn kickbacks? This actually seems much more lucrative than being an advertizing company since cellular phone companies have been clamping down on Monthly Allowances for the past few years.

    • I started a shared data pool plan for my family and my brother's usage was estimated at about 2GB per month. A couple weeks into the billing cycle I checked usage and my brother had used MORE data than the other FIVE of us combined, and was on track to use over 5GB!

      I was a bit disappointed originally that I wouldn't get shared data when I switch my extended family over from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint (seriously, all 3 other networks!), but I soon realized this was a huge boon - because T-Mobile doesn't charge overage for data - only steps down when you reach the limit (i.e., data limit is for "fast data" - i.e., LTE or 4G, but the 2G is unlimited). So my post-grad cousin who has erratic data usage doesn't impact my bill or my speeds. My bills never change month to

  • tumblr app autoplays gifs, so to speak (previously it just showed a preview and you clicked on it to see it) thus making it useless for two reasons.

    First, it eats throuh gigs of data in no time. More importantly, 4g can't keep up with it and the fast scrolling you may want to do. Some clueless ass designed that one in a vacuum.

  • by zizzybaloobah (1021731) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @06:52AM (#47823935)
    I participate in the beta for the Android app. We've had several updates that re-enabled that feature. smdh. It boggles my mind that not only did FB think this was an important feature missing from their application, but so important that it needed to be enabled by default. smdh again.
  • The blame lies not with FB but with providers artificially limiting how much data your device can consume on a technically irrelevant time scale for profit.

    1G of data is enough for ~1 hour of streaming video. So that means that you can easily burn through your allotment in a day or two for regular usage.

    It's not like they can't provide you with the bandwidth, the bandwidth is not what's being measured after all. And they all collude with each other to provide the same crappy service.

  • If I am actually interested in the video, I have to go back to the beginning. And sometimes the humor or entertainment value is ruined by me seeing later parts on mute. It's so much more annoying than just starting videos I'm interested in, and has resulted in me actually viewing a lot less videos on facebook. Unless they want to kill peoples' data limit and get worthless plays to videos, I don't see the point.
    • Clearly it's a typo - the feature is that you automatically pay more for mobile data. I only wish I was kidding - remember, this is the same "CEO" that openly thought his users were "dumb fucks".

  • How do you switch off Facebook's auto-play feature?
  • So my phone has FB installed by default and they know exactly what
    data plan I have.

    There seems to be no reason to pay data overages because of
    vendor installed applications. There seems to be a fundamental
    conflict of interest, evidence of fraud or bait and switch.

    I am not talking about an auto with a speedometer that goes to 120 mph
    sold in states with maximum speed limits well below but a clear misrepresentation
    of purpose in marketing.

    Speaking about strange numbers. Phones are marketed with standby
    times

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