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Facebook takes on TikTok with a new, vertical-first video player

Facebook is introducing a new, full-screen video player on Wednesday, which offers a more consistent design and experience for all types of video lengths, including short-form Reels, long-form videos and even Live content. The upgraded player, which will first launch in the U.S. and Canada, aims to streamline the experience for both watching and sharing video content. But more importantly, it will default to showing videos in vertical mode and will also allow Facebook to recommend the most relevant video to watch next, no matter what type of video that may be: long, short or live.

The latter change could potentially affect key factors that creators and advertisers care about, like watch time, number of views, reach and more. For Facebook, meanwhile, more people watching videos on the platform could allow it to increase time onsite, plus advertising views and clicks, among other things. It also gives Facebook a way to better compete against other popular video platforms that rely on algorithmic recommendations, like YouTube and TikTok, as it broadens the pool of possible recommendations to include more video formats.

Image Credits: Meta

These improved recommendations will also appear outside the player, on the Facebook Feed and Video tab. In addition, Facebook said it will show users more Reels going forward, given the demand for short-form video.

Facebook says its upgraded player will also offer new controls like a full-screen mode for horizontal videos and a slider to skip around in longer videos. Plus, users will be able to tap on the video to bring up more options to do things, like pause and jump back or forward 10 seconds.

Image Credits: Meta

Notably, the player will default to showing videos in vertical mode, like TikTok, though users will be able to access a full-screen option for horizontal videos that allows them to flip to watch in landscape mode. TikTok, by comparison, has also tested horizontal videos and long-form content of 30 minutes as it looks to compete with YouTube and other sites.

Facebook says the decision to prioritize the smartphone-driven vertical video format came about because it's seen a shift in video consumption, where much of the viewing now takes place on mobile.

Facebook's player will first roll out to iOS and Android devices in the U.S. and Canada before expanding globally in the months ahead.

An improved video-playing experience could potentially help Facebook capture the attention of a younger audience, too.

Image Credits: Meta

Although Facebook has declined in popularity with Gen Z over the past decade, The New York Times recently reported that many young people are now turning to the site for its Marketplace. That offers Facebook the opportunity to try to capture their attention in other ways, while on the site, including through Gen Z's preferred social format, video.

There are other hints that young people are starting to rediscover Facebook, too. A report by NBC News indicated that Gen Z was boosting the "Facebook poke" — a long-forgotten gesture that was a simple way of saying hi. In March, Facebook announced that it had seen a 13x spike in pokes over the past month, for example.

The timing of the video player change also comes at a time when U.S. lawmakers are weighing a possible TikTok ban, which, if enacted, could increase video consumption on other social platforms.