Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Evolution of Autoplay

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of websites that have autoplaying videos. I thought I was completely imagining this, but it turns out to be true. Tim Carmody for the Nieman Journalism Lab:

Video autoplay on the web has been around in different forms for years, but its embrace by Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and other platforms in the past year is changing its economics and user’s expectations. Many people dislike autoplay — quite a few hate it — but it’s a powerful tool to capture and hold viewers’ attention, it’s a perfect medium for advertising, and it generates huge impression numbers for platforms and publishers. It’s not going away. For video, it’s the vector to the future.

Autoplaying video is loathsome, especially if it includes audio. It’s as unexpected and user-hostile as those websites that had background music fifteen years ago,1 it’s inherently interruptive, and it increases costs for mobile users. If publications thought user backlash was strong after shoving intrusive ads in their faces, just imagine the reaction to this trend.


  1. Remember that crappy MIDI version of a Blink 182 song you’d hear on every other GeoCities page? ↩︎