Google recently started testing a new Search feature that displays auto-playing YouTube videos when users search for certain images on their mobile devices. The experiment is reportedly limited in scope as it's currently only delivering YouTube snippets when users make a fashion-related image search. Furthermore, the feature is seemingly not available in most parts of the world, so you probably won't be able to replicate it. However, screenshots proving its existence can be seen in the gallery below. Initial reports suggest that Google isn't serving full YouTube videos but only auto-playing snippets that loop infinitely. The videos appear on the top of the Google Image Search results page, don't play sound and aren't labeled as ads. However, they also cannot be minimized or stopped from playing, which some affected users found annoying.
The auto-playing videos lead to their accompanying YouTube pages. As the experiment is currently limited to fashion-related queries, all displayed snippets lead to YouTube channels owned by retailers like River Island and New Look. Despite not being labeled as ads, these new windows certainly look like advertising seeing how they're actively promoting certain clothing brands and are appearing even when users input generic search terms like "men jackets" and "winter outfits." Neither Google nor any of the participating retailers have yet commented on this report. While these auto-playing videos certainly use additional data, Google seemingly tried to mitigate that fact by only serving short looping snippets. Finally, this experiment is reportedly limited to the mobile version of Image Search.
Not surprisingly, users who have originally reported seeing auto-playing YouTube snippets on their Image Search results pages don't sound terribly thrilled with the idea of this becoming a standard Google Search feature. However, even if the Mountain View-based tech giant is indeed testing a new ad format, that in no way confirms this feature will ever roll out worldwide. Google is usually relatively transparent when it comes to updates to its Search interface seeing how the company is regularly announcing related tweaks and improvements, which is why the Internet firm will probably go public with details about this unavoidable feature if it truly intends to launch it globally.