As many newspapers have discovered to their chagrin, the Internet is one of the best ways to read the news these days—but there are still certain hazards inherent to the experience. In particular, there’s the matter of autoplaying video, which every TV station local news department seems to believe is the best way to enhance its stories when it posts them to the web. Who hasn’t had the experience of browsing the web while in class or at work and suddenly fumbling frantically for the mute button as some reporter’s voice blares out through the speakers?
It puzzles me that so many sites seem to think that annoying people is the best way to endear themselves to their audience, but even I hadn’t realized just how annoying people find it. When a friend mentioned that version 61 of the Chrome web browser offered a way to disable autoplaying videos, I thought it seemed like the sort of thing people might want to know about, so I posted it to my Twitter feed:
If you use Google Chrome, go to
and set it to “Document user activation is required.”
Boom: no more auto-playing videos.
— Chris Meadows (@robotech_master) October 3, 2017
What I hadn’t expected was that simple tweet was going to go viral like nothing I’ve ever posted before in my entire life. 200 replies, over 6,000 retweets, nearly 13,000 likes, over 740,000 impressions so far—and who knows how many it will have by the time you’re reading this article? I’ve gotten 17 new Twitter followers out of it so far. My Twitter notifications won’t shut up, and it shows little sign of slowing down. I’ve been called a hero, a gentleman and a scholar, and other complimentary things more times than I can even count. I only wish I’d thought to write up a TeleRead article on it at the time and then tweeted that instead!
Some of the responses have provided other useful information: that it’s possible to do the same thing in Firefox by typing “about:config” in the address bar and searching for “media.autoplay.enabled” and switching it to “false,” or that the option can be set for Facebook on its video settings tab. Others have advised me that the Chrome setting is experimental and doesn’t currently work on all sites that use autoplaying video, and there’s a Chrome extension, “Disable HTML5 Autoplay,” that also helps.
Furthermore, even manually changing this setting will only be necessary for a few more months; Google will block autoplaying video globally for Chrome users starting in January, 2018. Safari 11 will allow for more granular control over autoplaying videos.
I’m grateful to everyone who has made my tweet so popular, and only hope that all my new followers aren’t too disappointed when they discover what a dull and boring person I actually am. In the end, this amazing level of response has shown me that there’s a deep level of user frustration with autoplaying videos—akin to the hatred for obnoxious web advertisements that has driven the ad-blocking explosion in recent years. In that respect, it’s surprising that it has taken as long as it has for browser manufacturers to get around to doing something about it.
I wonder how many other user annoyances and pet peeves will be fixed by web browser manufacturers in coming days?