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Firefox 66 to block automatically playing audible video and audio (hacks.mozilla.org)
1415 points by mfsch on Feb 4, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 368 comments

Now if I could only get NetFlix to stop it as well.

Is there anyone that actually likes the autoplay when watching Netflix on TV?

Update/Note: This is in the Roku app. I'm specifically talking about previews autoplaying while I scroll though different shows on the main navigation...

> Is there anyone that actually likes the autoplay when watching Netflix on TV?

I can't think of a single time when I have encountered autoplay and liked it. Not even with video streamers like Netflix, YouTube, etc.

The only time I've found myself wanting autoplay is when it's an obvious playlist, such as TV shows on Netflix or explicit playlists on Youtube.

All of the other times, it's really just irritating, and I've only gotten more annoyed lately because of it. Netflix just promotes its newest shows, and frankly I don't watch that many Netflix originals. Youtube... the recommendations are fine, but the next video selection is very little hit and mostly miss for me.

I honestly like YouTube's autoplay, as I use YouTube to listen to music the autoplay feature allows me to find new artists and songs to listen to. I get a much better "Radio" experience than I have gotten from say Spotify.

Youtube's autoplay (ie, play another video after the current one) will likely continue to work as it doesn't reload the page. You can also enable autoplay on a site-per-site basis if you want it to occur regardless.

Personally I'd rather prefer autoplay being something I give permission for than the site asking for forgiveness (which in 99% of cases I will answer by muting the site permanently).

How'd you mute a site permanently?

I use "MuteLinks" by "Shaxine" from AMO to mute sites permanently.

Revoke JavaScript permission. That's what I do (in case I ever allowed it).

I agreed until recently, but now my music autoplay is very inclined to get stuck in a loop of music I've already heard (did I listen to those tracks too many times?). The additional recommendations can still be good but need more manual intervention than letting it autoplay.

Yeah Youtube's algorithm for playing stuff you will like is pretty good.

Know who else's algorithm has done the same thing for me? Pandora. It's basically my go-to music app. I have groomed a station to be exactly what I love and it just sticks to a formula, automatically adds in new releases by the artists I already follow, and plays music I like.

The weird thing about Youtube's autoplay is that if it is a video you actually want to watch you need to rewind the start when you click on it because there's no audio during autoplay and it starts the video from where autoplay "left off".

That doesn't happen to me. There is audio during autoplay.

Maybe one of us changed a setting. My auto play has closed captions and no audio.

It is so annoying because the reasoning is so insultingly simple and ultimately, the height of irony and stupidity. I can see the middle manager in my mind boasting how this feature increased their key video playback time metric by 5% so it's here to stay!

I don't mind when it autoplays the next episode of something i'm watching. Though i find it stops the autoplay and asks me if i'm still watching at probably the worst times.

I can't stand though when it autoplays trailers or previews or automatically starts something new when i've finished something i'm watching. Scrolling through netflix and having things autoplay as I scroll through is annoying as all fuck.

I find I'm being subconsciously trained to keep moving through the listings before the autoplay triggers. In addition to my distaste for them, they also seem to freeze up the app for a moment while they start; it's less than a second, but it's noticeable.

I assume it's driving engagement with people in general, but it inhibits my engagement.

Which goes back to one of my perennial frustrations with all this tracking and A/B testing bullshit; they're tracking my every mouse movement, they're slicing and dicing pennies in an effort to advertise at me, but when it comes to something I'd actually like, like them noticing that not only do I not "want" these autoplaying ads but that they actually decreased the very metrics they care about for me, suddenly our monstrous tracking machine with seemingly endless resources to stare at me like Sauron's All-Seeing Eye goes all blind on me.

> they also seem to freeze up the app for a moment while they start; it's less than a second, but it's noticeable.

It's extremely noticable in the roku app. It pauses for a couple seconds every time you navigate so you can't really do anything until the autoplay loads. You end up seeing a few seconds of it for every single item you hover over.

I cancelled my Netflix subscription because of the auto-playing previews. I'm surprised people put up with them, let alone that they increase engagement. Half the time the previews are auto-generated. They have a few clips of the show along with some generic music. One of the tracks was reused so often that I started to think of it as the Netflix theme.

I'm surprised people put up with them

I don't like them at all but I do most of my Netflixing on my iPhone, where it doesn't happen.

(When I do go to the Netflix site in a web browser I sometimes temporarily use "Mute site" which is a pretty crazy thing for a site for watching movies to make you want to do!)

I'm _this_ close to cancelling Netflix because of this behavior on Roku. Also the utter lack of closed captions configurability is wearing on my nerves.

Yeah. I've been bingeing a few episodes of the office each night for the last month or so. I like the autoplay.

Guess there's a conflation of terms. I think a lot of people enjoy the "automatically play the next episode after this one ends" feature. Recently, however, Netflix has added a "blast sound out of my TV when I hover over something I might want to watch" which I never want. If I'm interested, I'll click in and watch the trailer. I rarely want it to start playing a video just cause I hovered over the title.

I can't find anywhere on the screen that doesn't make noise (and usually only after several seconds of false security). I've just stopped opening netflix unless I already know what I want to watch

Yes...that's the one I was talking about. Autoplay the next episode is fine.

Autoplay every show I barely hover over? No, thanks.

Particularly when the advert is for their show "sex education"and my young children are in the room!

Ah. Now I understand. I believe there is an option to shut this off. It really annoyed me when that happened and I remember doing some googling and shutting it off. The videos still autoplay but the sound doesnt.

You can block the Netflix autoplay element of the page in ublock. Thus far it seems to have had no other effect.

Ahh, this on my television with a Roku.

Makes me wonder if we can block it with Pi-hole then?

Doubt you can block it like that without blocking netflix. The source domain is probably be the same.

I assume the Pi Hole still uses DNS to block.

There is a setting in your Netflix profile. I assume it stops it on every device, I haven't tried it though.

That only stops the next episode in a show from automatically playing when the current episode ends. It doesn't get rid of the obnoxious autoplay previews when you are browsing.

I can only see a setting for autoplay next episode, not for autoplaying trailers as a scroll through their "library".

Oh, that would be great...will have a look tonight.

That's awful. I hope that never comes to the phone app (we use Chromecasts, no TV UI). It does happen on the Coming Soon page, which is not promising.

We pay for Netflix to bypass this sort of noise.

"Is there anyone that actually likes the autoplay when watching Netflix on TV?"

Emphatically No.

I like it. Before I didn't even bother playing shows that had a bad static image. I like the quick instant previews because it's inline with my intent: I'm deciding whether or not I want to watch as opposed to the auto-play garbage on the web that's virtually on every news site - I want to read the news articles and not watch and listen to a 30 second blurb where most of the content is an ad that I can't ignore

I don't mind the autoplay of next episode, or the autoplay if the preview in the preview pane, but I absolutely hate that after the preview plays long enough it will auto start the epiaode/movie.

It does the same on the Xbox One. It sucks. Every Netflix-using friend I've asked about it hates it.

I used to hate it, but now I abuse this to watch the trailers that autoplay.

Make no mistake: Netflix has certainly been measuring how well this works and the impact it has on the product. What we might hate has been proved to improve metrix Netflix seems to care about…

Netflix loves it I’m sure! ;)

I hate autoplay so much that probably no one in the whole universe hates it more than me. This is the stupidest human invention ever. </rant>

I'm really grateful for customizability of firefox. I discovered "media.block-play-until-visible" in about:config some time ago and I hope that they don't have plans of removing that option in the future.

If you're not imagining physical assault on the people in power who decide to enable autoplay for their content, then I'm certain there are people who hate it more than you do. But I also definitely think the people who enable autoplay, lack a certain kind of imagination that people could possibly be driven to irrational levels of hate because of this misfeature. But then this also applies to spam and spammers.

I'm not planning any physical assault :D and I don't think that any software is worth any assault. It is just a tool, if I don't like it, I modify it or change to a completely new tool.

The good thing is that I'm a programmer, I know the basics of c++ and js so I can just look around in firefox's source code and find interesting things that could make my web browsing experience better.

"media.block-autoplay-until-in-foreground" if you're searching for this.

Default true in FF 65 (possibly earlier).

is there an equivalent setting for chromium?

Muted autoplay is still allowed. WTH Mozilla. Just stop. Stop the stupid auto-playing video. Nobody wants it.

This announcement almost made my morning. It's frustrating seeing video everywhere when you're just trying to read an article. If I wanted video, I'd turn on my TV.

This is because of animated GIFs. If you disable muted video people will just use GIFs instead and it'll chew up way more of your bandwidth than a video file would. If you disable animated GIFs someone will make a JS library that recreates it, using (probably) even more bandwidth and CPU cycles.

This was the case on mobile until recently (maybe a couple of years?) and the benefit to users after the change is obvious. I get the frustration but it's very much a real-world compromise with good reason. I do think that they could make this a configurable option though, much like disabling JS.

EDIT: looks like they did: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19077887

Yup. A friend working at an ad company told me when video playback is disallowed, they stream a series of JPEGS and show them frame-by-frame in sync with web audio. I saw it over two years ago. The playback looked stuttery, but it still worked.

I know last year Chrome disallowed auto playing web audio, but they probably found a way around that too. Their scripts ran directly on the host's page (not in iframe), so they could probably trigger playback after any mouse event anywhere on the page.

I disable autoplay and it usually works. I close the windows where it doesn't work and that works for the remaining cases.

I think the sites trying to do end-runs are generally low-quality and it will be relatively easy to ignore them. Sites like the Atlantic, The New Yorker, and etc don't do end-runs and so disabling makes my experience sooo much better.

There's a massive middle in there of HuffPost, Forbes, and their ilk (each is probably an arm of a content marketing villain such as Demand Media or similar) who will autoplay for you all day long if you want. Maybe even on every story.

What does your friend think of this?

This is just more fuel to add to the pro-ad-blocking argument.

Ad companies are filth.

>Ad companies are filth.

To be honest, I am wondering more and more if those aggressive unwanted advertisement are having an impact on peoples behavior and emotional baseline. Similar to road rage. Except you dont always sit in your car, but most of us spend significant parts of their lives in front of screens.

Why would they go to all this effort? Clearly, this is to play video to users who clearly do NOT want video auto playing. All you accomplish is pissing off the user and wasting your own bandwidth.

If I came across a website that did this I would probably never come back.

See your misconception here is thinking that any ad company sees you as anything more than just some eyeballs to be ruthlessly mined for money and data.

They don’t give a toss how you actually feel about the ad. They don’t care that it’s wasting bandwidth, they’ve got ads to show you and nothing should stand in their way as it’s evidently their divine right because they’re gods gift to the internet.

> They don’t give a toss how you actually feel about the ad.

Of course they do, their money depends on having people engage with those ads.

Not necessarily. Impressions are important too. Just because you don't think you noticed that annoying (random example) coca cola ad doesn't mean that it won't unconsciously influence your decision to put that into your tray instead of Pepsi next time you're at the grocery store.

I’m probably in a minority but I consciously and intentionally penalize ads that bypass my psychotic-level blocking. Getting me to notice their ad will cost them, I make sure of it with vindictive fervor.

Same, I don't understand why more people aren't like this

Yeah, so they do care about how you feel about the ad. If you associated that ad with bad feelings you might not want to buy that brand next time you see it.

"Sure those users usually hate auto-playing videos, but they'll love our auto-playing videos! We don't want them to miss out!"

The ad companies don't necessarily care about whether or not the ads help their clients' brands. They don't get paid for that. They get paid for other things, like delivering impressions.

The site that the ad runs on might care about how this affects reader loyalty, but, if they've decided to go with ad networks, they have rather limited editorial control over what ads the networks choose to run on their sites.

Well, it's not like most visitors have adblock disabled except for websites with annoying ads.

So, for those visitors who have adblock, you don't do any more harm by serving annoying ads.

For those who don't have adblock, well, you do do harm, but the cost gets spread over the entire ad industry, which is why adblock usage has grown [0]. On the other hand, the money made from serving the annoying ad and getting the impression comes directly to you (and not the industry).

In short, benefit is immediate to you. Damage is delayed and doesn't come directly to you.

Anyway, I despise this kind of reasoning.

ps. People who worked there seemed quite decent. And that somehow showed in part of their biz practices too. E.g. they intentionally refrained from tracking visitors.

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/804008/ad-blocking-reach...

This is commonly called tragedy of the commons.

They get paid to deliver videos, no matter what.


Too many clients (from an agency perspective) are implicitly given good advice "Your potential customer base isn't interested in this" but someone has to ask "How do we get them to see it anyway?"

They have forgotten that potential customers don't have to do business with them. They have options. Time for folks to re-read Seth Godin's "Permission Marketing", it seems.

Marketers for ad companies live in a world of self delusion.

answer: money

Compile your own video decoder to webassembly and render the video to a canvas.

And a lot of things that are "animated gifs" really aren't animated gifs anymore, they're using audioless video players. So if you stopped autoplay, everything from gfycat, imgur, and similar would stop playing.

... until clicking the play button.

And when people browse Reddit, do you think they want to individually press play an extra time on each and every video that they look at? Of course they don’t!

So everyone ITT saying that “nobody wants automatically playing videos”. Actually yeah, we do, and there are many, and I mean MANY of us.

Well, I'm the only person I know personally that spends time browsing reddit on his phones (because on a PC videos do not autoplay), and I've installed a different client mostly because it won't autoplay anything.

But I do have a lot of friends that spend time browsing facebook, and not a single one likes autoplaying videos, either wanted or unwanted ones.

Videos do not get into your screen at the same exact time you focus your attention on them. On the occasion that you'll want to watch the video, autoplaying just forces you to see a lot of out of context spoilers and video endings.

Whitelist Reddit then. Or turn on autoplay for all websites.

Or maybe we can take the current approach and leave a sensible default for the people who aren't savvy enough? And people like you and I can just toggle the option?

Do the majority really want autoplay? Facebook forced it on people and made it hard to find the disable option.

On pages that I go to specifically to play a media file, yes. Maybe a reasonable middle ground would be that each page can auto-play a single video element?

There are probably uses that I'm not thinking of (or don't partake in) where this would still be a problem for people.

or if it allows to whitelist those domains.

Or until the user switches to alternate browser like I will if Firefox doesn't autoplay soundless animations.

It would take a lot more than that for me to switch from Firefox.

ok bye

Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments so we don't have to ban you again? Your substantive posts are just fine.


That sounds amazing. The only thing worse that autoplaying videos is 30 of them autoplaying at the same time. Let users opt-in to autoplay rather than opt-out.

10% of users will be thrilled and the rest will switch back to Chrome where the internet still works how they expect it to.

What was the reason that made the hypothetical 90% go for Firefox in the first place? This seems like the kind of feature one would expect when installing Firefox.

Mobile addons, privacy respecting defaults, not wanting you to be logged into a Google account all the time?

I don't think "makes imgur gifs stop playing" is going to attract more users than it drives away. By all means have that as an option, but it'd be a terrible default experience.

Mozilla demonstrated they don't care about retaining old users when they broke all the extensions in 57.

If you made videos stop playing, users could switch to Chrome as a fix when their gifs stopped playing.

Firefox 57 changed to using a more limited extension system like Chrome already had, so it's not like users could jump ship to Chrome to get back Firefox 56's more powerful extensions.

You may not have liked or agreed with that change, but I don't think it actually drove people to alternative browsers. If anything they might have said "Well, I have to going extension browsing anyway to find new ones that work, maybe I'll take a look at the options in Chrome too."

If I hadn't already been running Pale Moon on Windows, it would have made me switch to it.

And now a short time later they basically all work again but its better than ever and less work to maintain your extension.

No kidding... I generally hit a few aggregation sites and open a dozen or so new tabs in the morning. Nothing is more annoying than finding the one playing audio... or worse when you get to the tab which had auto-play video (muted) and had already passed the video in the link I'd even been interested in and onto something unrelated.

They would stop playing? Sounds like a feature, not a bug!

Sure but I prefer the Internet to look less like Imgur and gyfcat so that would be a feature.

And you will be able by installing an addon, accept that you're a minority and most people want autoplay on their GIFs.

accept that you're a minority

This seems like an assertion in advance of evidence.

To be sure, the entire internet-using public does not get a vote on the issue, aside from browser configurations and plugins (which the people who deny us a vote pay PR agencies to hate). Just like in other instances of disenfranchisement, those who aren't allowed to vote are indeed considered to be "minorities," even if only in the amount of political power they wield.

Thank you for helping me realize what's been bothering me about software for the last decade or so. I've been experiencing an increasing apathy and dissatisfaction and I kept attributing it to "age" -- 40 is not that much, true, but I had no better hypothesis until now.

Basically, what bothers me is that most of software being developed nowadays treats users like shit and the excuse is always along the same lines: "We ensure that we do what users want, by measuring their response, and if they didn't like it they would use something else".

Turns out, you can't go anywhere else if everything is corrupted through same perverse incentives and you don't have the power to change it yourself. Back when most users were more computer-savvy, the users had more power. Obviously, we can't go back to computers being mostly a hobby for geeks, but there has to be some kind of a solution to put more power in users' hands. I just can't think of one.

You have to fight universalism in all its forms. Whether you agree with the default behavior or not, if people feel strongly about another option then let them have it by changing a config setting. Resist the "it must be this way and no other" crowd. Even if the config is as user-unfriendly as about:config, it's there. If you find it impossible to convince management that the slight increase in maintenance is worth the flexibility of both the software and end user usage, expose it anyway for "testing purposes".

Maybe education ?

Don’t tell me what to do.

> everything from gfycat, imgur, and similar would stop playing.

Yes, this would be what I want.

Agreed, but when I (pre-66) disabled animations, I didn't see an obvious UX element for "no, go ahead, this one's cool".

Edit: Actually, it seemed to be hit-or-miss. Some gifs work, some refuse to play at all.

you're just repeating the previous comment

What I've been looking for is just a way to limit bandwidth down to something very small for certain tabs/pages. So, for instance: Washington post/buzzfeed/huffingtonpost/vox/vice etc. all get limited down to like 25kbps. They can try and play video, or steam jpgs, or whatever else they want, but I'll never see it because I don't have the bandwidth.

If that caught on, hopefully it would also be the end of gigantic, unnecessary UI libraries.

I’d love a way to enforce other resource limits as well - cpu, for example. And maybe also a “maximum rate of pixel change” to kneecap the inevitable end-runs around autoplay being disabled.

Oh dang, maximum refresh rate would be a really cool plugin. I actually am sortof in love with that idea!

I'd peg that at '0' unless some override was clicked.

I'd take a slightly different approach: A site is allowed a maximum file size and a maximum number of bytes per page. Anything over that will simply fail to load.

>> If you disable animated GIFs someone will make a JS library that recreates it..

Let's disable that too. My browser is not someones corporate programming play room.

Most users including myself disagree with you. I don't mind autoplaying silent gif's, in fact on some sites (youtube) I WANT autoplaying video with sound.

Will second that. I definitely view autoplaying gifs and videos (no sound) as a really nice feature. I'm glad for it.

> If you disable muted video people will just use GIFs instead

Let them. And we'll fight that too. We are all still not closing pop-up windows like the yesteryears of the internet because we refused to accept it.

Who is "we"? Because the vast majority of users love their animated GIFs. Just look at any social media site. Pop-up windows were easier to banish because people didn't want them. Autoplay, with-sound video too. But animated GIFs are popular.

Personally I don't care for them. I don't care for emojis either but good luck to anyone who wants to take either away from users, particularly in a competitive product like a web browser where users can just switch to an alternative.

> Because the vast majority of users love their animated GIFs.

Then they can choose to play it. Just like you can opt to allow pop-ups in your browser. Nobody is asking for a one-size-fit-all solution - all they are asking for is choice and control over their browser.

> Nobody is asking for a one-size-fit-all solution

Right, because that isn't possible. Instead you choose sensible defaults that match what users want. Like it or not, the majority of users want autoplaying GIFs.

> all they are asking for is choice and control over their browser.

Which you have. It's a configuration option to disable autoplaying muted video.

> It's a configuration option to disable autoplaying muted video.

Please, what is the name of this one now? And do you know one for disabling autoplaying GIFs too?

EDIT: Oh, it's media.autoplay.enabled, another discussion has it. Thank you for pointing it anyway.

> the majority of users want autoplaying GIFs.

That's an assumption. If you ask users if they want gifs or no auto playing video ads they will choose the latter. And if they don't, so what let them choose.

> If you ask users if they want gifs or no auto playing video ads they will choose the latter.

And that’s a false equivalence. I am able to block annoying ads with an adblocker and simultaneously enjoy my desired auto playing muted videos just fine.

I’d be fine with either whitelisting sites or having a button on each gif which starts the animation.

That would be way too complicated for the average user who wants their gifs to play. Given what you want is atypical, isn't it reasonable to expect you to configure it manually? Why should everyone else have to manually enable gifs when that is by far the more common preference?

Is it? Where are you guys getting your stats in this?

Personally I feel like gifs are annoying and distracting.

Come on, be realistic. Tumblr didn't become a billion dollar business just by having good SEO. Lots of people enjoy scrolling through pages of gifs and they won't be satisfied with click-to-play on 100 different 5 second long animations.

Ok, but that's not the point though? The assumption is that The Average User wants these soundless video gif-likes to autoplay. But The Average User never wanted popups. If you don't want them to autoplay, there probably is a setting or extension for it.

If you block animated GIFs, then sites will load a set of images and use DOM APIs to flip through them. Or perhaps they'll write their own video decoder in JS and draw frames to a <canvas>. All of these are much worse for users than letting the site use a proper video codec.

So "fighting that too" ultimately means blocking by default either Javascript or all images. Good luck with that in a mainstream browser.

You do realise reloading 100 images in JS would be easy for the browser to detect and just disable JS when it finds that happening. I.e. similar to how pop up blocking works. Detect misbehaving, prevent it, ask user to allow it. Same goes for canvas misuse same goes for bandwidth misuse.

Fighting that too is exactly what we need. Don't be such a push over.

For what it's worth, disabling JS today is actually more reasonable than it was 10 years ago. CSS and HTML actually gets you most of the way there now. (Talking about news style/blog sites, not web apps)

Maybe we should be aiming for that?

> You do realise reloading 100 images in JS would be easy for the browser to detect and just disable JS when it finds that happening.

Your proposal breaks Google Maps, as well as thousands of other sites, in order to implement an ineffective heuristic that pages can easily bypass by disguising image data as other data.

> For what it's worth, disabling JS today is actually more reasonable than it was 10 years ago. CSS and HTML actually gets you most of the way there now. (Talking about news style/blog sites, not web apps)

> Maybe we should be aiming for that?

Trying to use 10% market share to push the Web to disable JS is a good way to make that market share 0%.

So come up with another way, maybe rate limit changing an image's source? Rate limit creating new, visible, image nodes? Just because ad pushers will try to work around something doesn't mean we should just give up. At some point the worsening user experience will negatively impact a site's reputation and people's willingness to view/use it.

The other assumption here is that the bad actors are actually ad pushers. In fact somewhat reputable news sites like SFGate often push auto playing videos that take a few seconds to stop/close. The likelihood of SFGate, WaPo, or the BBC going to such lengths to display videos seems low — especially since the more aggressive solutions require more bandwidth.

> At some point the worsening user experience will negatively impact a site's reputation and people's willingness to view/use it.

You'd think so, but the same argument is used to claim that blocking isn't needed at all. "Obnoxious ads will negatively impact a site's reputation and people's willingness to view/use it."

Another problem with adding rate limits or other ever-increasingly complicated heuristics is that it makes the Web platform ever more difficult to deploy applications on. You may not see that as a problem, but it pushes app developers to support only native platforms --- where you can't block anything. More unintended consequences.

Web browsers are part of a complex ecosystem where seemingly straightforward actions have all kinds of unintended consequences. Browser developers think about these things all the time and have, in some cases, decades of experience dealing with them, yet they constantly get lambasted by armchair strategists who've thought about these issues for five minutes and decided it's all easy.

Your argument from authority doesn't really add any weight here.

We have already mostly solved the problem by playing whackamole for a few years. Ublock mostly have things solved now. Sure some lists are over the top but for the most part it just works.

Maybe you're just jaded and thing it's too "user land" or something but from my perspective the browser should be urging developers toward non shitty user experiences.

Because I know the ad pushers are basically never content with n-1 ads.

Native server side ads would be brilliant by the way. The ad quality drastically shoots up when the buyers have to trust the people pushing their ads.

Whitelist Google maps. Man your arguments are weak and defeatist.

JS "motion JPEG" is actually computationally cheap to do at least in Firefox, it just burns a megaton of RAM.. https://sweetness.hmmz.org/2014-04-16-portable-9-22x-compres...

That's an interesting blog post. Are you the author?

It seems that we need per webpage/domain/tab limits on bandwidth, cpu and memory usage.

Totally. I hate browsing to my local news site - SFGATE because it is always crashing my browser. They have multiple videos autoplaying and even blocking the content on the page. So frustrating.

Aside from all the problems this would cause with long-lived single-page applications and legitimate uses of high bandwidth (YouTube, Netflix, streaming radio, etc), I think you'd run into the same thing as the comment you're replying to is getting at: developers will find a workaround, and it may be worse than the thing you were originally trying to prevent.

I was recently researching the save-data header for one of my sites to not start caching video files on metered connections.

Its still a nascent thing only found in Blink browsers but at least its something.

https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/o... for reference since I hadn't heard about it before.

> This is because of animated GIFs. If you disable muted video people will just use GIFs instead and it'll chew up way more of your bandwidth than a video file would.

I wish there was an option in browsers to prevent the downloading of GIFs (especially on mobile). It used to be useful for artwork, but PNG has taken that over.

The browser doesn't know the image is a GIF (content-type header) until after it starts getting bytes back. At that point the only way (pre HTTP/2) to stop the bytes is to close the connection, but this is terrible for performance because you lose keepalive and need to open a new connection.

If this was common, sites could also serve GIFs with an the content-type of a different image. Since browsers content-sniff between image formats, if the GIF was served as image/png then it wouldn't be until the image finished downloading that the browser would learn it was a GIF.

> if the GIF was served as image/png then it wouldn't be until the image finished downloading that the browser would learn it was a GIF

GIF has a header at the start of the file identifying it as such. It starts with one of two six byte long sequences identifying the version of the format that is being used.

0x47 0x49 0x46 0x38 0x37 0x61 ("GIF87a")

0x47 0x49 0x46 0x38 0x39 0x61 ("GIF89a")

So as long as the file isn't served with additional compression obscuringly applied on top (gzip etc) you will have an indicator that the file might be a GIF after downloading just the six first bytes of it.

Of course you could be unlucky and try to download a file that is not a gif but which happened to start with either of those two sequences of bytes.

But you could:

- Stop downloading it if the URL was loaded via <img>, and place something like an image of the word GIF with a cross over it in the img tag.

- If it was loaded outside of <img>, let the user know that it was blocked as suspected GIF but allow them to override.

At least as a first step toward some kind of anti-GIF thing.

img[src$="gif"]{ display:none; }

edit: at least it prevents them from being displayed :P

That will match images whose name ends in "gif", but won't match "/foo.GIF" or simply a "/foo" that is a GIF. You can't tell what content type the server thinks the image is until you get the content-type header, and you can't tell what it actually is until it's been downloaded.

It's a good 99% solution.

Most gifs being served on the web aren't .gif files anymore, but .webm or .mp4 files instead. That css wouldn't even stop half of the gifs most users see on a daily basis.

I can assure you that:

1. The solution as posed works remarkably well. I know this because I use it myself.[1]

2. Extending the pattern to either be case-insensitive or include other animated image formats is pathetically trivial.



1. Specifically, in my "Annoyances" stylesheet, applied to all sites by default:

    /* gifs: So, it has come to this ... (xkcd) */

    img[src$=".gif"] {
        opacity: 0 !important;
        transition-delay: 3s;
        transition-duration: 1s;
        transition-timing-function: ease;
        transition-property: opacity;
        display: block;

    img[src$=".gif"]:hover {
        transition-delay: 0.3s;
        transition-duration: 0.3s;
        opacity: 1 !important;

There's also setting "media.autoplay.default" to 1. None of that stuff works to turn off _all_ autoplay.

The concerns about animated GIFs and javascript obfuscated WEBMs and such only apply to sites that go out of their way to ignore the user's clearly stated preferences.

If fighting that sort of thing mandates an arms war, this is a hill we should be willing to die on. Battle until the bitter end, until the rivers run red with blood.

I'd really like them to add a play button for animated gifs too. And of course have them paused by default.

Solution: a browser plugin that converts the website to a PNG, segments it, runs OCR on it, and presents it to the user.

Note: the plugin could do this on a server, for the additional benefit of smaller bandwidth use.

So Opera Mini?

Could be. I don't know how well it implements these concepts, and it seems it only supports mobile phones.

This is exactly it. I'm building https://getartemis.app, which, as you can see on the home page, has an automatic muted video playing of the demonstration of the product. Most people without such autoplay will not want to click play, and thus my email sign-ups will decrease, which is the same rationale as every other site with autoplaying videos.

When I first learned Chrome disabled autoplaying videos, I converted my video, which was around 500 kB, to a GIF, which was now 30 MB, with a noticeable decrease in smoothness and quality. Companies will not stop autoplaying videos, they will merely find other ways around it, because autoplaying videos work for the vast majority of users.

Why wouldn't they block animated gifs as well?

why can't animated gifs be click-to-play as well?

Some browsers have an option to disable GIF animations, I use this option in Falkon browser

Firefox has it, too. The UI is missing, but you can toggle it in about:config.

    image.animation_mode    none

Thanks, I set it up now, does anyone know if you can do the same in Chrome/Chromium without extensions?

Chrome was one of the last to actually implement this feature. It took 8 years (!), and Animation Policy (part of the accessibilityFeatures api) still doesn't work that great, and is only available via extensions.


Animation Policy extension from Google: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/animation-policy/n...

Thanks for this!

So, don't animate the GIFs until the user asks to?

Call me crazy but we should deprecate gif animations.

Forcing higher cost to serve ads is not a bad thing...

The higher cost here is borne by the consumer though, not the advertiser. Javascript shims to 'play' videos do not cost the advertiser anything, just the user's electricity and (ultimately) society's energy usage.

The consumer is already bearing an unreasonable amount of cost to support advertising. The philosophy here needs to shift from "You kicked over my sandcastle, what can we do to make you not want to kick over my sandcastle again" to "Advertisers are a parasite and need to be contained in a separate sandbox and never let out"

The idea that advertisers are the only thing enabling a free web is bogus and needs to be dispelled, the costs of hosting a small amount of personal content are negligible and prior to the advertising era the occasional dude with cash would just altruistically host random niche websites on a subdomain.

Can you explain how servers and bandwidth that handle ads on ad network side would be unaffected by serving bigger loads?

If we are talking about society energy usage it would be ideal to ban ads/adtech entirely.

In the world of S3, cheap CDNs etc the cost difference would be negligible. The user difference would be more pronounced, though, as their limited bandwidth (particularly on mobile) is taken up downloading a bloated GIF rather than something more useful.

I personally want it, and I'm sure a lot of people want it too.

There are a lot of interesting experiences that can be enabled by autoplay. If a site ends up being too annoying it will simply lose visitors, and extensions can perform more aggressive blocking for those that don't like it.

IMO this is a fine compromise solution.

I’ve never once found autoplay video to enhance a web experience. I’ve never once found a single example to be “interesting”. I don’t care if audio is muted. I don’t want it, full stop.

It’s atrocious UX. It’s hostile to users. It’s presumptive and frankly rude. There’s no excuse for autoplay. Even on YouTube, it’s more often infuriating than not.

Edit: clarified “autoplay video”, not animated GIFs

I've seen some very subtle moving backgrounds that were quite appropriate for the sites they were on.

It's probably too difficult for software to tell the difference between something like a high brow long form interactive article, a tasteful hero banner background, and an annoying popover or sidebar ad.

My least favorite auto-playing videos in a site I use regularly are in the Netflix UI.

Yea, even on sites that specifically cater to serving video (like YouTube) I prefer non-autoplay video, it's an extra click - who cares... it will save me the occasional wall of sound when re-opening a browser with way too many random things open.

People apparently can get very annoyed by an extra click between them and content that they have already indicated they want to see.

Look at the number of complaints people post about EU cookie warning banners, which usually don't even block you from consuming the content on the page, even though they usually can be dismissed in one click. Or the number of complaints if a site puts a sign-up or logic request, dismissable in one click, that obscures any of the content.

Sure, with an extra click to play video, as opposed to an extra click to read an article, it will save annoyance on sites where the person is not there specifically because they clicked a link to see the video.

There are probably more sites where the auto-playing video is an annoyance than where it is the thing you came to the site for, and so blocking auto play is probably a net win for most people--but will they perceive it that way?

You are more likely to notice that something has annoyed you than to notice that something has not annoyed you. With blocking auto play I think a lot of people will only notice it, therefore, when it makes them do an extra click to see something they came to see. They aren't going to notice that it saved them from having to click to mute or pause some ancillary video on a page.

That doesn't mean it should not be added. It just means some care should be taken into how it is presented and configured.

> There are probably more sites where the auto-playing video is an annoyance than where it is the thing you came to the site for, and so blocking auto play is probably a net win for most people--but will they perceive it that way?

I don't know about that. I would think YouTube alone easily accounts for the majority of autoplaying videos that users encounter.

> the occasional wall of sound when re-opening a browser with way too many random things open

Firefox only restores tabs (and thus resumes playing) once I actually select them. This sounds like a better solution for your specific problem. A drawback is it being easier to end with a significant tab graveyard. But won't be able to have it any other way once you're at four-digits open tabs...

I care. When I'm scrolling through dozens or hundreds of videos in a stream an extra click per video is a big ux problem.

Wall of sound I agree with. Disable that. But don't force me to click a video or gif to get it to play.

Reddit, Giphy, Imgur, Youtube.

Those would be the big four which would negatively impact my daily web usage.

Giving other people a to default disable a thing does not force you to do it, too. Giving different people options about how they want to experience the Web would be the entire point.

The media.autoplay flags in about:config provide that option for anyone who wants it (and even more granular controls than those being exposed in the UI here).

Some big browsers need to disable auto-play by default to force websites to actually support commencing and pausing video in terrible tiny javascript video players.

They don't work. I have all of those flags enabled and sites like CNN still autoplay videos. With sound, too, as a matter of fact.

If it's already not possible to implement perfectly, what is being argued for in this thread exactly?

How would it negatively impact you to click / tap on a video to play it?

Look at GoPro's website. They sell video cameras, and their landing page has a muted video showing video taken with their cameras.

Why does it need to autoplay? If I want to watch it I'll click play.

Animated gifs (which are being replaced with gifv autoplay movies) are great IMO. I think the majority of web users don’t mind them.

“Animated gifs” are dead (ish), most likely whenever you see something that you think is a gif, it’s an auto playing video


If autoplay videos and gifs were disabled the whole value of that site would disappear. I wish 4chan and Reddit would do it as well. It's great for feed content.

There are plenty of other examples of auto-playing videos being a good thing. Please don't take those away.

> There are a lot of interesting experiences that can be enabled by autoplay.

Yeah, like alerting the participants of a meeting to the fact you are browsing crap on your phone.

Definitely lots of experiences use this solution, and shouldn't be hurt by sites that abuse it (stop going to or use adblock on this sites?).

I am working on a platform that's a mix of Twitch and Netflix. Entering a "show" starts muted autoplay until the audience member explicitly turns on audio. If they're coming to the show URL I give them, presumably they're there for the show.

I can’t understand this design decision. What if they open the URL in a new tab, while still focused on another tab? How do you as a user know something is playing on that new tab?

You’re helping yourself to their bandwidth and local compute without their consent or knowledge.

Why do you think this is okay?

>> Definitely lots of experiences use this solution, and shouldn't be hurt by sites that abuse it (stop going to or use adblock on this sites?).

So your site/idea is OK, but people should stop going to others or use adblock on them.

I don't want to compromise. I don't want a movie to play without me clicking on it, ever. It's my computer, my internet connection, and it should be my choice.

So, it shouldn't be optional?

I like cheese, everyone has to have cheese on all meals!?

I think that comparison is backwards. It's more like "I don't like cheese, so no one should be allowed it"

I don’t see it as backwards.

Autoplay video is like if the waiter just starts shaving parmesan on your salad. If you didn’t want it, you now have to pick the shavings off. Annoying.

Nonautoplay video is like the waiter asking “would you like cheese?” “Yes” “Ok” and they commence shaving it.

I don’t see why we should all have to pick cheese out of our salads because some people are too lazy to have a 3 second interaction to get what they want.

To extend the analogy, I would like to have the option to go to a restaurant (site) order a salad (visit a page) and have that come the way the chef (developer) intended, with cheese (autoplay video). If I don't like this developer or restaurant's judgement I can eat somewhere else. (Or, in the web case, install an extension that blocks autoplay video.)

Except most chefs in your analogy are having the quality, quantity, and proportion of ingredients dictated to them by an owner who may or may not know how to microwave popcorn.

I think the analogy is: I want to see the menu and select what I want to eat. But the chef is forcing me to consume it, with the cheese that I don't want, the instant I open the menu.

Are you still talking about browser option that everybody can set as desired?

It's optional, you can already turn all autoplay off (about:config - media.autoplay.* settings, specifically media.autoplay.default = 1 turns it off)

Sure, if you've remembered to do it. And again for your laptop, your phone, your tablet, your work computer, your partner's laptop... and then again once you've updated your OS, or rebuilt your computer.

I feel like I'm turning this setting off about once a month, usually after it has done something embarrassing or highly irritating on public transport .

This should have been the default since browsers were first able to play audio.

So you are not arguing for choice, you are arguing for forcing your preference on everyone, so that they become the ones who have to set the option back in all of their browser installs.

Yes I am, because the default choice is idiotic, annoying and anti-social.

Setting your preference to autoplay may be irritating if you prefer it the other way, but you won't annoy your co-workers, leak any sensitive info, or wake up your SO before finding it in the wrong state. And the Firefox devs agree with me.

Could maybe add an option with Firefox sync to save browser settings if anyone really misses this "feature".

This is about disabling silent videos autoplaying. Firefox is already disabling videos with audio autoplaying. I am not sure how silent videos could be much more embarrassing or disturbing to people on public transport or your co-workers than an inappropriate image, and I do not agree that they are idiotic or anti-social.

From the title of the article: "Firefox 66 to block automatically playing audible video and audio". Emphasis mine.

The subthread we are commenting is about all autoplay, starting with a commenter saying the audio-only ban was not enough, and then being told that silent autoplay can also be turned off, but many users probably want it.

> Muted autoplay is still allowed. WTH Mozilla. Just stop. Stop the stupid auto-playing video. Nobody wants it.

Apologies. My comments were intended to be about autoplaying audio.

It's optional. You simply opt out by installing a blocker extension. If enough people want to opt out maybe that's added as a built in switch. (Like the audio blocking this post is about, and popup blocking before that) I think then that's fine too.

Following your analogy, I don't think it would make sense by default for meals to always have no cheese, or for the waiter to always ask if you'd like to include cheese. But i think it's fine for them to allow you to ask not to get any cheese.

You can disallow it in about:config:

    media.autoplay.allow-muted    false
…and even disable GIF animations:

    image.animation_mode    normal
…but if these became the default, people would come with arcane ways to bypass it.

The problem with that approach is that it is all or nothing. What people want is only allowing whitelisted sites to be able to play video.

I've been using the mute sites by default extension in firefox for a while. That pretty much does what Mozilla is promising now. Works great for sound and I occasionally whitelist a website when I actually want some sound.

I'd love the same extension to be able to block video elements from playing as well. I find it highly distracting and I tend to have no patience for videos about news items.

As I understand it, that is actually not possible in Firefox. All of the extensions I've encountered that claim to be able to do that are a combination of either completely broken or merely turning off the ability to auto play video on every website without the ability to white list.

Muting sound by default is progress. Having the ability to black/whitelist sites from playing any media would be what I want. I don't need it to be default. I'm happy to do this via an add on, even. But right now there seem to be no good options for this.

On a side note, I set image.animation_mode to "once" which keeps Slack memory and CPU usage down, as the animated emojis only get one pass at my CPU.

Why once? Why not none?

So I can view tihngs like noaa once. [1] I need to walk my out-of-shape self around the parking lot and that will tell me how long I have to not get wet.

[1] - https://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/west/weus/vis-animated.gif

Oh man. Seems like the side-effect would be that you have to refresh the site to let your eyes have another pass through the animation.

Either that or it's forced you to develop a razor sharp visual memory of short weather animations. :)

One pass is usually good enough for me to know how many minutes I have before I might get soaked. :-)

The problem is most of the time I want them to not animate, but occationally I do want them to at the time of my choosing and poentially multiple times (most or all of the ones I want are explaining something that I want to learn). A play button next to the animated image with autoplay disabled would be best for me. Meanwhile "annoyance" blocklists remove some of the worst.

I was on a sports site a while ago reading an article.

After a bit over the top of the article played an entirely unrelated video from that site because man they wanted me to watch their video content. There was no way you could have read all the article, you were guaranteed to be interrupted.

Out of curiosity I went to an article on their site that was just a video and started that video.

After a bit over the top of that video played an entirely unrelated video from that site.... on top of the video I chose to watch.

It was just mind boggling.

'Video' is a bit misleading. It doesn't necessarily mean a YouTube show or something. It can also just mean an animated diagram or spinner.

I'd be pretty happy to manually decide which animated diagrams to enable, too. A lot of those animated diagrams chew up resources on my computer, and may or may not be interesting to me.

There've got to be a zillion ways to do a spinner that wouldn't fall afoul of this blocking.

Right some people want to disable animated GIFs, but this is no different so it's not really a new conversation, and 'If I wanted video, I'd turn on my TV' shows confusion because it's a silent animated diagram in the middle of a document is not like turning on the TV is it.

I guess.

TBH, the way that it's so hard to even say, "All this moving stuff annoys me" without being reminded that it's impossible to opt out of the more annoying bits of the modern web without also making front-end developers cry blood kind of makes me want to opt out of the whole steaming compost heap and go back to using Gopher.

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if, 5 years from now, someone is telling me I can't disable WebAssembly to keep people from mining Bitcoin on my phone because that would also disable clicking on hyperlinks on modern websites.

edit: And the way that I'm getting downvoted for expressing a legitimate frustration kind of speaks to the extent to which the original vision that hypermedia should give the user-agent control over how the content is to be consumed is just straight-up dead. 25 years ago, we had alt strings for in case people couldn't or didn't want to view images. Now we have pages that won't even render if you try to disable extraneous animations that some people can't even see, and apparent hostility toward someone pointing out that this doesn't work for them.

Few people here ever heard of Gopher. I’m 36 and while I’ve heard of it, I never used it.

The Internet moved on, it’s time to adapt, otherwise you sound like a grandpa missing the good old days, which are never as good as people remember.

Yes I remember the web of year 1996, of 1999, or of 2004 and it was shit.

I'm 34, I've used gopher, and it's awesome. There is something far more special about publishing files on the Internet and links launching specialized native applications, instead of some one-size-fits-all experience that never leaves the browser. We could totally do that with the web, but the masses want their devices to keep getting smarter so they can stay dumber.

There's that angle. The other one I was thinking about is, it's just increasingly difficult for me to think that allowing anonymous third parties to run arbitrary code on your system is a great idea. It's convenient as heck, sure, and it does allow for creating some really interesting tools, but it's also begging for abuse. It reminds of the late '90s fad for embedding a scripting language inside every single document format, and how that ended up being a can of worms.

When I hear that it's basically impossible to disable arbitrary auto-playing video alongside the text you planned on reading, because someone will just implement a canvas-based video player in JavaScript, and it turns out you can't disable JavaScript, either, because then the whole page will simply fail to load because Vue.js or whatever can't even fathom the idea of a user-agent that seeks to be something other than a glorified application runtime environment, I think, "Wow, it would appear that HTML has irretrievably ceased to be a hypermedia format, it's now more like Google's answer to XAML. Where can I go to find actual hypermedia?" And the only thing I can think of that fits the bill is (the admittedly relatively primitive) Gopher.

Muted autoplay is unblockable because I can write a script that flips through frames. It's also equivalent to GIFs which have been around since time immemorial.

I suppose it depends on whether you're thinking of an adversarial situation, or assuming sites that don't actively try to defeat the user's preferences.

Most news sites don't try to defeat my adblocker, to offer one example. It would certainly be in their interests to do so, but it's rare that they actively try. When they do, they usually try to block access while asking me to turn it off, rather than trying to sneak ads past it.

I'd probably stop visiting a site that actively tried to force video to play when I've asked my browser not to.

> Muted autoplay is unblockable because I can write a script that flips through frames.

Since I don't allow scripts to execute in my browser by default, I've already blocked your autoplay workaraound.

Muted autoplay is unblockable because it's equivalent to using an image that specifies `Content-Type: multipart/x-mixed-replace` and constantly streams new image frames to the client.

Fine as long you'll be able to cover extra bandwidth cost - and it would be easier to distinguish this from valid parts of page and block it.

GIFs are blockable with image.animation_mode in about:config

I wouldn't say unblockable.

Sure, all you have to do is either block by default Javascript or all images. Obviously those features belong in a browser extension, not the core feature set of a mainstream browser.


Depending on the site, I have a slight hack that I am sure most people know. Once I know the text has rendered, which is almost immediate, I stop loading the page (hit the stop hotkey or click on the actual X), and then I switch to Firefox reader mode.

Remember when the "stop" button on browsers stopped loading the page? Those were the days.

I remember a time that 'stop' in Firefox stopped all animation on a page too (blink tag, GIFs).

Exactly. I don't understand why even download the content in the first place... Why not just include some config so that users can decide themselves exactly the behaviour they want?!

Because ultimately the user still can decide the behaviour they want -- you can choose to not visit that web page. You decide where your browser goes and what sites you visit.

So, you think browsers should pre-load, analyse for media and provide info with every link to allow a user to avoid following links with autoplay? I reckon just allowing autoplay to be turned off is easier and makes for better UX.

Yeah and it should also post all the porn you watch on your Facebook - you can still choose not to watch porn!

Nah I think if it came down to a choice between facebook or porn that might actually be the thing that killed facebook.

This is great until netflix can't autoplay the asset you just clicked on to play. All net video uses the same APIs.

You mean that you'd have to actually click a play button on Netflix and the UI then goes from terrible to workable? I would love this.

This sounds like case of bad default settings. AFAICT users were previously able to turn off autoplay in the settings.

For Firefox, about:config then media.autoplay.default and set to 1.

For Chrome, chrome://flags#autoplay-policy and select "Document user activation required".

But there is an even simpler way

"... when you're just trying to read an article."

If reading is all you are trying to do, then there is probably no need for Javascript to be enabled for that particular website.

(Nor do you need images enabled, if all you are doing is reading.)

Firefox "reader mode" might be one alternative.

Another is to disable Javascript for that particular website in the Firefox settings.

Aside from Adobe Macromedia Flash, are there any examples of autoplay video that do not rely on Javascript being enabled? If you turn off Javascript (and Flash), then you also turn off autoplay.

That has been my experience.

The HTML5 video element has an `autoplay` attribute that does not require Javascript to my knowledge. Also, a depressingly large and increasing number of websites are actually not readable if you disable Javascript. [0]

There are also some sites where users usually want the video to autoplay, where the primary purpose of the site is watching videos (eg. Youtube, Niconico Douga, Vimeo) so disabling it as a default is more annoying than beneficial because it would also break it for those sites.

[0] Source: I browse with JS disabled.

In my experience disbaling Javascript and Flash will stop autoplay. If you have examples, please share as I would like to test.

Can you point me toward me some of the depressingly large examples of websites that require Javascript in order to read text? I would like to test.

On the contrary, I have found a very large number of websites that do not require Javascript to read text.

Of course our browsing habits are probably different.

What I sometimes see is small amounts of text that are "hidden" by Javascript, perhaps to conserve screen space. For example, a click event "unhides" the text. One can view easily view the "hidden", plain text in the source of the page. I have not seen entire articles hidden this way.

As for YouTube, it can be whitelisted in browser settings if the user wants autoplay. Does YouTube rely on Javascript or HTML5 for autoplay?

Can one test reliably (not simply by user-agent string) whether a user's browser supports HTML5 autoplay without using Javascript to perform the test?

It seems like using Javascript for autoplay would be the safer bet for a website that wants to be sure videos will autoplay.

One thing I notice is that although disabling Javascript might stop autoplay, HTML5 can still force autoload, downloading the entire video even if the user has no intention of ever playing it. That could be a problem for a user wanting to minimise her data usage.

If a website makes heavy use of a JS framework like Vue/React/Angular and does client-side rendering as opposed to server-side rendering, as an increasing number of sites do, then you run into issues. This isn't all that uncommon when checking out websites here on HN, both as submissions and within comments. I don't keep a running list of sites I'm not able to visit as that's a rather pointless list to maintain. I do encounter them frequently while browsing HN. So I did a search on HN for "blank when javascript is disabled" and you'll get a number of results. Here's the first few I came across:

- http://isfiberreadyyet.com/ - From: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14145881

- https://zencastr.com/ - From: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12065622

- https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/en/vondsten - From: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17439832

- https://blog.stgolabs.net/2018/03/linux-v415-performance-goo... - From: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16659360

- https://pricehipster.com/ - From: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17467204

You also can't sign into a Google account anymore [0]. Though to be fair if you're someone browsing with Javascript disabled you're probably not using Google and don't have a Google account to sign into.

I frequently browse only four websites. Three if you don't want to count my own. It's the sites I discover/find from these three websites where I encounter issues. HN is a frequent source of "this site has no content when JS disabled" and it's becoming increasingly more common since 2012-2013. Given how few people browse with Javascript disabled, many of these sites (rightfully IMO, even if annoyingly) file it into the "such a small amount of users it doesn't matter" cabinet.

[0] https://security.googleblog.com/2018/10/announcing-some-secu...

I'm the creator of Price Hipster, which you linked to. It's not just that pretty much no one disables JavaScript. It's also that the website is very interactive and responsive and would have to be designed very differently to avoid JavaScript. Much more data would be consumed if every action resulted in a call to the server and a fully rendered page returned each time, and the website would be a lot less snappy and less nice to use.

That sounds like a great line to put in your <noscript> tag! For the three or four people who hit your site with JS disabled each decade. ;)

"Price Hipster is a modern website and requires JavaScript to be enabled."

This tells me nothing about what the site does, why the site needs Javascript enabled, or gives me any incentive to whitelist Javascript for the site since I don't know why or what it will be doing with Javascript.

Now, I happen to know what your site does because of your (previous) post here on HN. So I understand that what you are doing more or less requires Javascript and that's fine. On the plus side, at least you have a message instead of literally-a-blank-page! :)

Didn't mean to pick on you, as I mentioned in the post it was basically the first five hits on HN for "this website is blank with Javascript disabled" since I don't keep a personal list.

I apologise that he used your site as an example. Nice work, BTW.

The question we were discussing is whether a user who "just wants to read an article" needs to keep Javascript enabled for every website she visits, or whether she could keep it off by default and whitelist a smaller number of sites where she wishes to turn on Javascript for whatever reason (such as Price Hipster).

I would not question whether anyone should enable Javascript when using the web to do shopping online.

However I think "just reading an article" online is a different category of use entirely. The costs of enabling Javascript in that case may outweigh the benefits.

> I apologise that he used your site as an example. Nice work, BTW.

No probs. I know people here get passionate about the health of the WWW. And thanks :-)

Your site did it right, though. It gives a message about how javascript is necessary and then, when enabled for that domain, didn't force me to enable tens of domains to make it actually work. I'm getting very weary of the "determine which minimum set of domains js must be enabled for in order to browse your site" game. So thank you for that.

If the issue is exploring new websites posted to sites like HN, then occassionally you do see these framework driven client-side rendered designs (let's call them "blank pages"). I agree it is depressing to see when people post blank pages to HN, but I think it is still a small minority.

A list of those sites is not pointless; a user could use it for whitelisting.

Even if not actively whitelisting, does it make sense for a user to enable Javascript by default for all websites just to make sure these few blank pages can run Javascript on her computer to send an HTTP GET or POST (that could easily be done without using Javascript)?

Those sites could be exceptions, not the rule; if so, they should not dictate the default setting for just reading articles. Javascript off. If we leave Javascript enabled all the time then we never learn how many articles we can just read without it.

What's more, IME sites using "blank pages" are not usually sites that serve much interesting reading material. They fall outside the category of sites where the user just wants to read an article without distraction.

I went through the examples one by one to see if I could find any articles for reading at these sites, or whether they were purely visual sites. Keeping in mind the orginal discussion is about just reading articles where no automatic video playing is necessary (and presumably no graphics either). I am not going through these to be argumentative. We are on the same side of the issue. I simply want to see what sites are leading users to believe they must keep Javascript enabled at all times (even when they would prefer to turn it off sometimes). The only way to do that is to look at actual examples.

If anyone reading has examples, please share.


All of the content of isfiberreadyyet.com is on Github. It is a website for users of React, one of the frameworks that is used to make these "blank page" websites. There are no articles to read. In any case, if a user just wants to read the raw data, with no visualisation, she can get it from Github.


The site zencastr.com is a commercial site for a web app/service. The web app/service requires Javascript to run and of course the site requires Javascript to process a purchase. There are some articles to read on their blog, linked to from the main page. Reading these at blog.zencastr.com however requires no Javascript.


The third site, belowthesurface.amsterdam is a heavily visual site presenting a catalog of images. There are some pages of text and some raw data in CSV. The specific page cited is a page of images. We can access the pages of text directly as json from the CDN, without Javascript. We only need to know the access token, url format and slug names. The access token, url format and slug names are not listed in the main page source but in a .js file sourced from the main page, one click away if you are using a mouse. At this time, that file is https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/static/js/main.5e68828b.js For example, https://belowthesurface.amsterdam/en/pagina/de-opgravingen-0 could be accessed without Javascript as such: https://cdn.contentful.com/spaces/1g4p9jizfk7g/entries?acces... Accessing the CSV data file requires no Javascript.


The blog at blog.stgolabs.net is a blogger site. As with the amsterdam archaeology site, we need only view the page source to get all the text on the site. If the user clicks on the link about 10 lines down from the top - https://blog.stgolabs.net/feeds/posts/default/ - she will be redirected to the full content of the blog on the feedburner site, no Javascript required. If the user wants an xml feed of the entire blog without using feedburner, she can use the BlogID number also found in the page source. The url format is https://www.blogger.com/feeds/$BlogID/posts/default


The site pricehipster.com appears to be a commercial site aimed at searching for products to buy online. There is an emphasis on images and visual representation of price history. This is not a site where the user "just wants to read an article" without being bothered by an autoplay video. In any case, Javascript is apparently not required to retrieve the price data and image urls. For example, https://pricehipster.com/api/search/products/search?name=&st...

>I went through the examples one by one to see if I could find any articles for reading at these sites, or whether they were purely visual sites. Keeping in mind the orginal discussion is about just reading articles where no automatic video playing is necessary (and presumably no graphics either).

A user has no reference point to whether a site is going to be a visual-based site or a reading-based site if a blank page is served to them. On HN, I get a brief description of the site through a title and a link to the site. Here's my first opinion of each of these sites with the HN information I have to go off of (note: I often browse using /newest , so I'll ignore user comments for the most part as I'd likely try visiting the site before there are even comments on the HN post).

isfiberreadyyet.com was posted with no description and was merely a link in response to an HN post. It could have been an entire essay about whether or not fiber is ready or even a simple Yes/No page like iscaliforniaonfire.com or isitchristmas.com which is what I was expecting to see when I clicked it.

zencastr.com mentions recording so I assumed it would use the Web Audio API. I'm not given any further explanation of what the site does when I visit the web page. I'm only told to enable Javascript because I need to (and not why I need to), which isn't going to convince me to enable Javascript.

belowthesurface.amsterdam was posted on HN with the title "Below the Surface – Finds from an archaeological project in the River Amstel". That sounds like it's going to be a lot of pictures with explanations of their history from an archaeological project in the River Amstel.

>We can access the pages of text directly as json from the CDN

The epitome of user friendliness for sure. All you need to do is know that you're looking for a "cdn" link in the Javascript file you access by opening up developer tools. Even my grandmother could figure that one out!

blog.stgolabs.net was posted with the title "Linux v4.15: Performance Goodies". This sounds like it's going to be a blog about the Linux 4.15 update, specifically about performance improvements made. Again, the user friendly method of reading this information is to poke around in the source code and already have half an idea of what you should be looking for (in this case, the "meta - alternative" link). The point of working without Javascript is to be user friendly without Javascript. One way of doing that is to serve the user content, even with Javascript disabled.

In the thread pricehipster.com was posted in, jazoom at least mentions that they have been using React/Vue so I can expect the site to be broken with JS disabled. My brief description is that people quickly glance at prices (taken from: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17467842 ) -- it's the worst example on the list because it's the only one that isn't misleading and is expected to be a blank page before I even click on it.

Having background video headers, and small videos (instead of GIFs) on websites is super common.

There's also simple animations between text, and alike.

There's no point in breaking those, since they don't emit any sound when they're on a background tab anyway.

Actually, tons of people want it. I'd prefer not to have to explain to all of my customers why their "hero" videos aren't working anymore only for them to get pissed off when I tell them there is nothing I can do about it.

> Nobody wants it.

While I agree with this for 99% of sites, there are some sites like dubtrack.fm (successor to turntable.fm and plug.dj) where you expect to hear music right away. But I understand these music sites are in the very small minority.

Safari has this feature and keeps a list of websites where autoplay is "whitelisted".

I’ve almost stopped using Amazon due to this insistence on playing video ads on their retail site—it is extremely grating. I almost feel like jumping ship to Jet/Walmart.

Wait, is this a thing? I've never seen Amazon auto-playing video.

Same here. Going to assume it's uBlock Origin doing its thing.

I have uBO and now they play with audio off. But initially they had full blown audio despite uBO.

> Stop the stupid auto-playing video. Nobody wants it.

I want it on specific sites. For example, if I'm watching a video tutorial, I want the option to proceed to the next video and automatically start playing.

Saying, "nobody wants it" is simply not true, and there are incredibly valid uses for it.

Firefox has has the ability to disable all autoplay via about:config for years. Recent versions have made the settings more complicated in preparation for this new feature but you can still kill it all with a minimum of effort.

There is already a setting in options for that.


There are usecases for autoplaying muted video. For example, my SaaS-in-progress (LyricSlides.com) UX is better if users don't have to click on stuff to make background video loops play.

Better for you, or better for your clients? Perhaps what you think is a better UX really isn't.

Can autoplay at least be turned off in about:config? They should at. least give the option, even if it's not the default.

When I go to youtube... I want it to autoplay.

Why not a whitelist? We've had that option with Flash for years. It works fine.

just make it a site-wide or page-wide option?

seriously, if you just want video on your tv, just filter all video elements out of your browser and let those who want video to have that

why would I want to click to watch a video if I put in a link to a video/video-site?

going to be interesting how quickly sites adapt and prevent viewing the content when the streaming content is blocked/muted. there are more than enough that detect any form of ad blocking or script blocking

>> there are more than enough that detect any form of ad blocking or script blocking

There are also more than enough that I don't have to use ones that refuse to accept my preferences.

I very much like muted auto-play, so speak for yourself.

If you want only text, open a text-only e-reader.

The web is consisted of not only hypertext, but also hypermedia.

"I don't want autoplaying video" -> "I only want text"

Quite the jump in logic

"I don't want x y or z" -> "I can choose to not have x y or z and not force my desire to not have x y and z on everyone else" -- It applies to every scenario you can dream of

It's this concept called liberty that people have seem to have forgotten.

The web was also meant to be consumed by varying User Agents that conformed to the needs of each user, so I think it's fair if someone wants a text-only user agent.

So we should accept malicious javascript , ad tracking and other unsavory hypermedia as well?

I believe you should consume (read / watch / hear) information exactly the way as the author wanted you to consume it.

Why don't you complain to the authors of such sites? Or stop visiting them? You want a higher institution to forbid something for everybody (even though it can be appropriate in many cases), but why do you keep visiting it and don't look for a better website?

This assumes you know what you're getting into when you click a link. That's not how the web works. Many sites are unfamiliar and we shouldn't have to keep track of them all.

If we want people to be happy visiting sites unfamiliar to them and encourage diversity in their reading, we need to make sure the defaults are good. You can always adjust them on sites you know well.

I believe the only way for the author to succeed is to provide exactly what the visitors want. If there is an automatic video / audio, it is probably there because the majority of visitors like it. So probably, you are in the minority, but want to forbid something for the majority.

Honestly, I am quite scared by people, who so easily agree to ban or restrict things for the whole population, just to avoid those 3 seconds of a day, during which they may feel uncomfortable.

> I believe you should consume (read / watch / hear) information exactly the way as the author wanted you to consume it

And I believe the exact opposite.

I believe I should consume information exactly the way I want to consume it. The author made it, but so what? Browsers represent the users' interests first and foremost.

A better website? I should look for a better website because some random sites have autoplay, and I don't know yet until I click, and with a straight face you're telling people to, 'well, don't use the site if you don't like it.' Do you not click on various unvisited URLs in your web browsing like the rest of us? I'm growing skeptical that your comment is in good faith and not a trolling attempt.

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