Instagram quietly removes option to disable video autoplay

Instagram 4.2.2 (Options, Video 001)

Late last month, Facebook-owned Instagram finally received its somewhat dull iOS 7-inspired update. I say dull because the redesign feels a tad rushed out and a bit rough around the edges. More importantly, not many people have noticed that yesterday’s minor maintenance update has killed off the tremendously useful video auto-play toggle.

Although iTunes release notes for Instagram 4.2.2 innocently list only “bug fixes and performance improvements,” in reality the new build has stealthily removed the useful Instagram > Settings > Auto-Play Videos switch.

This may not seem like a big deal, but consider for a moment the fact that the vast majority of iPhoneography fans turn to Instagram to enjoy beautiful photos.

Conversely, not many people give a heck about video on Instagram. Instagram disappointedly has never provided an option to block all video content from a user’s feed so you don’t need me to tell you that enforcing auto-play on videos isn’t really helping anyone but Instagram itself…

As you can see on a pair of screenies right below, you can tell Instagram to preload videos via Wi-Fi only to, but that doesn’t help conserve your cellular bandwidth much because the instant you stumble upon a video in your feed it’ll automatically load and play.

What a bummer, eh?

You can still mute all video sounds in settings or opt to toggle sound on and off with the ringer switch, but – again – the previously available Auto Play Videos switch is gone never to be seen again (top right).

Instagram 4.2.2 (Options, Video 002)Instagram 4.2.2 (Options, Video 003)

Instagram is a free download from the App Store.

Feeling the heat from Twitter’s Vine and other short video messaging startups, Instagram back in June added video sharing. Unlike Vine’s six-second clips, video of Instagram can run up to fifteen seconds long and there’s a good reason for this: branded channels.

Since then, the service saw a number of big brands embrace video as an affordable venue to inject highly visible promotional messages into people’s feeds. Unlike Vine, Instagram Video proved fertile ground for mobile video news startup like NowThisNews, which is backed by the same people that brought you the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

Remarkably enough, fifteen-second Instagram snippets posted by NowThisNews have proven quite a popular way to tell short stories. Here’s an example Government shutdown story.

According to AllThingsD, NotThisNews is pushing up to a dozen Instagram posts a day to its followers.

When you consider the growing importance of short video sharing services such as Vine and Instagram and take into account technologies that summarize longer stories (i.e. Yahoo-owned Summly), it’s easy to see why exactly Instagram would want to infest everyone’s feed with videos that play automatically: ads.

Instagram COO Emily White told the Wall Street Journal last month that U.S. users will soon start seeing photo and video ads in their feed. Moreover, the Instagram blog hints any advertisements on Instagram should feel “as natural as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands”.

They’re striving to make these ads enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see “engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine”.

The Next Web notes that disabling video autoplay is “a small but important step” towards ads:

Now every user on a WiFi connection, and those who don’t opt out of autoplay on cellular — which is set as default within the app — will watch, at least the beginning, of any video in their stream.

The problem is, online and offline users are already inundated with ads and my Instagram feed is the last place where I’d want to see obtrusive advertising, so much so that I’d gladly pay (via in-app purchase, for example) to get rid of ads on Instagram altogether.