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2023

Google tests rolling out autoplay videos in searches

Image: Happy Stock Photo, shutterstock

One of the most hated features of the 2017 internet — autoplay videos — may soon be coming to anyone (i.e. nearly everyone) who uses Google to search.

At least that’s the look of things based on a new test Google has been rolling out in recent days that puts autoplay videos in the Knowledge Panel (which appears to the right of your results in a desktop browser).

Discovered by SEM Post reporter Jennifer Slegg on Monday, the test puts a small YouTube video related to your search term under the name and images associated with the search term. Since it’s a limited test, only visible to some users, I wasn’t able to duplicate the autoplay results. Nevertheless, Slegg says that after searching for two Warner Bros. films, Justice League and The LEGO NINJAGO Movie, she saw autoplayed trailers in the Knowledge Panel.

The good news is, according to Slegg, the sound doesn’t automatically play, so you’re spared having to rush to shut off the video whenever you’re just trying to search for something (you need to click the video to enable sound). But that doesn’t change the fact that the video is using your bandwidth, whether you notice it or not. Also, she was unable to reproduce the autoplay video feature using mobile search, it only occurred on desktop searches.

Search Engine Land confirmed the testing of the feature, quoting a Google spokesperson as saying, "We are constantly experimenting with ways to improve the search experience for our users, but have no plans to announce at this time."

An interesting point in Slegg’s report is that the autoplay videos were not from official sources. So this could mean that future autoplay videos in Google search might be used as an ad revenue unit: pay to have your topic-associated video appear in the Knowledge Panel of certain results, for example.

Like all Google tests, just because it’s showing up for some users doesn’t mean it will become a permanent and widespread feature for all users. But the fact that Google is even testing this out means that it’s something the search giant is seriously considering in its quest to continually optimize its ability to monetize search.

However, depending on how it’s executed, if there’s major backlash from users already fatigued from autoplay videos on a wide range of sites, it could also represent an opportunity for something we haven’t seen in years: another powerful search engine, sans autoplay videos.