Articles & Columns » State of the Arts Tech Talk

I write a Tech Talk column for the bi-monthly newspaper State of the Arts, published by the Montana Arts Council. My latest is Virtual Private Networks. My archives are here and you can subscribe to my RSS feed with your feed reader or by by email.

State of the Arts for October/November/December 2015: Stop Auto-Play Videos

One aspect of the modern web we all have to deal with are the sites and companies that are pushy with their content. And by that I mean sites that show pop-ups to ask you to sign up or a mailing list, or a window that slides down or up to get you to read another article.

I understand the reasoning behind this: that’s the way companies gain users and keep readers and in turn make money. But about the most annoying “pushy” content to me are videos that start to play as soon as you go to a page. In the industry, this is called auto-play. But when they start up, they are distracting and noisy.

That’s the business websites are in: keep you on the page and increase your time onsite, and as a result, increase the website ranking and traffic and views, which mean money.

But you don’t have to accept auto-play: there are ways to turn it off. Sometimes these tweaks don’t work perfectly, but like anything, technology gets better over time. And, of course, the technology to get around your efforts changes, but with some luck, we can stay in step and reduce these annoyances.

For Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, check this article at PC World for instructions on how to make changes to browser settings to help stop auto-play of videos and ads:

(And ironically, that website which instructs you on how to stop auto-play has their own auto-play video ads).

And if you’re good with installing and using browser plugins, check for others for Chrome and Firefox; there will be more effective auto-play blockers available over time.

For Safari on the two latest versions of OS X, go to Safari Preferences, and in the Advanced tab, set “Stop plug-ins to save power”. That will help stop auto-play and autoloading of movies. If you’re using an older version of Safari, check out this plugin:

Now, Facebook has its own settings for stopping auto-play on desktops and mobiles; see an article at CNET to make those settings.

By the way, one of the most current battles on the web involves some of the technology behind these videos, called Flash. That’s the format of many videos and ads on websites. But Flash has been beset with seemingly unending security problems that have been exploited by hackers for a few years now. So on September 1st, Chrome (the browser used by over 50% of Internet users) took the initiative and began by default automatically stopping the autoloading of Flash ads and movies. And some of the largest ad suppliers have begun to kill Flash ads themselves. This might help kill off Flash all together in favor of more secure and less power hungry HTML5 videos. And then stopping auto-play will be even easier.

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