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Facebook testing offline videos in India

Wed 20 Jul 2016

Facebook has just launched a pilot program to test offline videos in India. Created to address the ongoing problem of unreliable internet connectivity in rural India, the new Facebook feature will allow users to save a video from their newsfeed to watch later when offline.

India has the largest number of Facebook users worldwide, with over 195 million users as of May 2016, outstripping the U.S. by over 4 million subscribers. However, India has the lowest average internet connection speed of all countries in the Asia-Pacific area, at 3.5 MBPS. Saving videos from Facebook in an area with good connectivity, or at a time with cheaper mobile rates, is an attractive option for Facebook users in India.

In a statement, a representative from Facebook said, “People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, are doing so on mobile. We’re continuing to improve Facebook so it works seamlessly and easily for people in all parts of the world, regardless of their device.

“We’ve heard feedback that in markets like India, mobile data and internet connectivity is limited and many people struggle with poor video experiences. So we’re testing an option for people to download videos to Facebook while they’re online on good internet connections, to view the video at anytime, online or offline, without using extra mobile data.”

This new feature is similar to YouTube’s ‘Save to Watch Offline’ option. Just last month, YouTube Red subscribers in India were given the option to download videos to watch later, to take advantage of cheaper nighttime connectivity rates. Facebook has been experimenting with video recently, launching an option to attach video to comments in May 2016.

Last month, Facebook Vice President of Europe and the Middle East Nicole Mendelsohn predicted that within five years, Facebook would be all video. She said that video is the best way to tell stories, by providing more information than the written word, and pointing out that live videos receive over ten times as many comments as prerecorded videos.

“I think it helps us edit,” she said. “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video. It commands so much information in a much quicker period so actually the trend helps us digest more of the information in a quicker way.”

While originally slated for testing exclusively in India, Facebook’s new ‘Watch Offline’ feature is also available to Android users worldwide, effective immediately. Android users can now choose ‘Save Video’ in the drop-down box of a particular video, and the video is stored to the Facebook app for later viewing.

In September of 2015 Amazon began to offer Prime customers the facility to download video via a framework similar to the BBC’s iPlayer service, wherein videos expire and can have their off-line accessibility controlled at a very granular level by rights holders. Streaming rival Netflix has backtracked on its 2014 assertion that downloadable content would never be made available to its customers, with CEO Reed Hastings stating in a letter to shareholders earlier this year ‘We should keep an open mind on this.’

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