Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Prevent Videos From Auto-Playing in MacOS Web Browsers

Kirk McElhearn:

Auto-play videos suck. They use bandwidth, and their annoying sounds get in the way when you’re listening to music and open a web page. I happen to write for a website that uses them, and it annoys me to no end. (My editors have no control over those auto-play videos, alas.)

But you can stop auto-play videos from playing on a Mac. If you use Chrome or Firefox, it’s pretty simple, and the plugins below work both on macOS and Windows; if you use Safari, it’s a bit more complex, but it’s not that hard.

I thought we settled this back in the 1990s when webpages would automatically play some shitty MIDI interpretation of a pop song in the background. Apparently, today’s batch of web-oriented marketing types didn’t get the memo about how interruptive it is to automatically play a video — with sound, in many cases — any time someone tries to read a page on their site.

McElhearn does a good job pulling together all the ways you can stop autoplaying video in the browser of your choice. In Safari and Safari Technology Preview, it requires setting a command-line hidden preference. But if publishers are going to subject their visitors to the scourge that is autoplaying video, it seems apt for there to be a non-hidden browser control. Unfortunately, a policy change in iOS 10 implies that Apple is actually going the other way and encouraging the use of autoplaying video — albeit, without sound.

At the rate this stuff is going, I’ll pretty soon become one of those people who browses the web in plain text. It seems increasingly like a reasonably appealing option.

Update: After disabling inline video playback on the latest MacOS beta and the latest version of Safari Technology Preview, I noticed some unexpected behaviour from YouTube videos. I’ve seen similar reports from others running different combinations of MacOS and Safari, including non-beta versions.