Facebook is reducing bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram to avoid potential network congestion as the company sees massive spikes in usage across its apps, the company announced. Facebook warned that while it is normally prepared to withstand expected spikes in usage, such as around New Year’s Eve, “the usage growth from COVID-19 is unprecedented across the industry”.

This is a temporary move and only for certain regions. We have reached out to the company to learn which regions will be affected.

Facebook is not the only one to lower its bit rates. Streaming platforms including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, ALT Balaji, Voot, Hoichoi and MX Player have all reduced the bit rates of their videos to avoid network congestion in India. Netflix cut its bit rates in Europe to reduce its traffic by 25%.

Facebook’s ad business suffers: Facebook’s ad business has “weakened” in countries that are taking “aggressive actions” to contain COVID-19 pandemic as it doesn’t monetise many of the services where it is seeing “increased engagement”. This is significant because most of Facebook’s revenue comes from its ad business.

Huge spikes in Facebook’s messaging services: Total messaging has increased by 50% in countries hardest hit by the pandemic. Voice and video calling have more than doubled on WhatsApp and Messenger.

  • Facebook gave specific figures for Italy, where people are spending 70% more time on Facebook’s apps (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp), and Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week. Time in group calling increased by 10 times in the last month.