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Twitter introduces autoplaying video in the timeline — but you can opt out

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Striking a compromise between users and advertisers

After a lengthy internal debate, Twitter is finally giving advertisers what they want: autoplay videos running inside your timeline. Since introducing native video onto the platform, getting it to play has required users to tap. Now you'll begin seeing it play automatically but silently, just as you already do on other stream-based social networks including Facebook and Instagram. (You tap the video once to turn on audio.) To its credit, though, Twitter is giving you a way out — if you don't want to see autoplaying video, you can opt out in Settings. If your connection isn't good, Twitter will switch back to the old tap-to-play mode. And you can also choose to let video autoplay only when you're on Wi-Fi.

Twitter says it expects most people will like autoplay video, which begins rolling out today on the web and on iOS. (Android is coming at an unspecified future date.) The 6-second clips from Twitter-owned Vine already autoplay in the feed, and have been popular with Twitter users, the company says. "It really fits in well with a lot of the direction and strategy we've been taking with the product," says Baljeet Singh, product director for video. Which is to say, it's immediate, and it's in real time. Watching a video on Twitter used to take you three taps; now it takes none. And it's not just natively uploaded video: GIFs will autoplay as well. (I'll be keeping autoplay enabled just for that reason.)

"It really fits in well with the strategy we've been taking with the product."

Singh says additional video features will roll out soon, including Twitter-recommended videos based on what you have watched previously. It's all part of the current land rush in digital video, in which a host of publishers are seeking to take the lion's share of lucrative video ad dollars. Twitter's underperformance in advertising revenue is likely one reason CEO Dick Costolo is on his way out. Autoplaying video is a relatively minor feature — but as Twitter looks to shore up its business model, it's also very necessary.