Facebook have started to test their new ‘floating video’ feature, hoping to enhance the overall social media experience of their users.
But is this something the presumed ‘multitasking’ generation of today needs? Or is it in fact a division of attention that will enrage more than it will enhance?
The new feature is exclusive to desktop users for the time being, and is suspiciously similar to a feature currently available on Tumblr. (click here to read more about Tumblr’s floating video feature.)
Users can float a video by clicking on a new button in the bottom-right of its action bar. Once activated, the video will float to the lower left corner of the screen where it can be re-positioned while you continue to browse the feed.
At this point you are probably either thinking “that sounds great!” or “that sounds crap!”. I am personally inclined to think the latter, but it all depends on how you like to use Facebook.
If you’re the sort of person who delights in watching viral videos whilst reading an essay on what your best friend’s cat is wearing on its head, then in theory, this is the update for you.
However, for anyone using Facebook as you previously would, there are a few major flaws you may have noticed in the way it currently operates.
The biggest issue is that the video will close when you navigate to a new page, so you are bound to scroll up and down the feed you were on until you have finished (or given up) watching/reading.
Another problem is the inability to re-size the video. It will remain frustratingly small – likely too small for most users to properly enjoy. Given that your attention will already be split between College Humor and a critic’s response to that cat essay I mentioned earlier, the amount of energy you will exert when browsing will be compounded.
For me this scenario begs the question ‘why not just click the full screen button instead?’. It will be much simpler and less taxing to do so.
The bigger picture
My anger aside, there are some definite benefits for Facebook that this type of feature could bring to the table. It presents an opportunity to sell more advertising space, and could potentially keep people engaged in their news streams for much longer.
The upshot for users is this: Facebook have woken up. They are now focusing on improving their video functionality, which means there will be a lot more innovations and updates to come (fingers crossed).
Provided they iron out the obvious usability creases, this new direction in functionality will greatly impact the way their 1.44 billion users interact with and consume Facebook media.