YouTube has announced it’s trickling down a feature from its YouTube Premium apps, though it’s not the background playback that everyone really wants. Rolling out now, Autoplay on Home is a new default for YouTube’s Android and iOS apps that will automatically start playing videos you see on your Home tab. Google will allow the option to disable it, or only keep it on when connected to Wi-Fi, but the company appears convinced that Autoplay on Home is a better way to experience and browse YouTube on the move.
Autoplay on Home will certainly help in one respect: inflating view counts. Google’s main goal with this feature is to make videos more digestible in a mobile context, so the company is serving them up as frictionlessly as possible and in a format that doesn’t require sound (muted, with captions on). For creators, this means a greater chance to monetize their stuff — should Google’s algorithms determine it’s attractive enough to propagate to people’s YouTube Home feeds — and for YouTube it means ever higher engagement metrics.
In a video explaining the change, YouTube product manager David Sharon dives a little deeper into the Autoplay on Home implications. Google has worked to reduce the mobile data consumption of autoplayed videos, and it’s also offering three different types of captions: automatic, creator-uploaded, and crowdsourced. Additionally, with the company conscious of how much time creators spend on crafting the perfect thumbnail for every video, the autoplay previews will only start playing after pausing briefly to show off the thumbnail.
While YouTube Premium users have apparently welcomed the Autoplay on Home implementation they’ve had for the past six months, it’s not obvious that everyone else will greet the change as warmly. Defaults matter a great deal in the world of software, and it’s hard to get away from the sense that YouTube will become a visually noisier and more distracting place once this change kicks in. How that aligns with Google’s claimed effort to improve the “digital wellbeing” of its users is not immediately clear.