The rationale here seems to be that by blocking video autoplay, Chrome incentivized sites shipping huge animated GIFs, or decoding video in JS and painting to canvas, both of which are very suboptimal for users.
Another comment points to this issue: https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=106364...
Unfortunately, full autoplay blocking is counter productive as images and <canvas> can do "video" playback just fine. We had this issue on mobile and ended up enabling muted autoplay there to avoid that issues.We found many websites having 100MB gifs that could be one order of magnitude smaller when implemented as <video autoplay muted>.
This seems like a case of "the more you squeeze, the more sand trickles through your fingers?". Sites already have a way of always autoplaying muted video, but it involves either shipping 10x the bytes, or spending huge amounts of CPU and battery on decoding in JS.
Might as well let them autoplay muted video and save the user's network/CPU/battery.
In any case, just leaving the option alone so at least it has some effect like it did before, would still be better than essentially a full surrender.
And what sites are replacing videos with massive gifs? Buzzfeed-like sites have always been filling their pages with 250 megabytes of gifs. News sites with half a dozen autoplaying videos certainly won't be replacing their videos with multi-gigabyte gif versions. And it seems like detecting a large, constantly repainted canvas would be easy enough.
It was all replaced when browsers finally implemented video tags that played in screen, but the tech still exists.
Now I'm looking for a gif and canvas blocker for FF mobile. Any hints on how to tune uBO?
Gifs are trickier. I'll often see non-animated images in gif format. Because of extension API limitations, uBO can't block gifs based on file size or animation frame count. (file size isn't even known until the start of the fetch)
Though Firefox at least does lets you disable all gif animations without just blocking all gifs.
Browsers' native functionality (if not deliberately crippled) and filtering proxies can definitely block animated GIFs while leaving static ones alone, by simply terminating the connection after the first frame.
I could imagine and equal reaction thread here if google deemed some gifs and canvas uses "unworthy" and were blockable.
I mean, heaven for bid, they could the user the ability to actually control the repaint rate. Or pull only the first frame of a gif, and not pull the 100+ meg gif without user consent(via touch, by site, etc..) Browsers wouldn't block popups for years because it could break legitimate use, now I don't think a single browser doesn't ship with that option not on by default.
I think the reality is, that these are features and functions that advertisers want, and google is in the business of selling ads.
This isn't a can't, its a won't.
 Just realized while typing this that I haven't clicked a Buzzfeed link in a long time, so my memory might be off. But I know some site I used to visit frequently did this.
If I, the user, disable some functionality and the site doesn't work I can:
A: add the site to an allow list
B: temporarily enable the feature for that site
C: stop using the site
Most of the time I'll give a site the benefit of the doubt, only when they pull shady tricks like dark patterns and whatnot do I just stop using the site.
Reddit is a great current example. I will not use their site or their app because they're both awful, and reddit is trying to force the app down my throat. If the app I use gets shut down by API changes I'll just stop using reddit.
Individuals must have the ability to shape the internet and their own experiences on it.
It's a very convenient phrasing, because these "individuals" certainly are doing what they say; it's just that they are not you. I trust Mozilla only slightly more than Google.
That sounds like a challenge.
I think if there were a click to play button on gifs > N megabytes or > X*Y resolution, nobody would complain, nor would they complain about click to play on frequently updated canvases.
Safari actually does that! At least on Big Sur, if you enable the "Reduce Motion" option in Accessibility Preferences, gifs only animate when you hover the pointer over them.
Feels a bit odd at first (e.g. on animated Discord emojis) but then it seems like an option that should have been there since forever.
I'm not on Big Sur yet, so I can't check, but it's a shame if that's the only way to animate it, because I might trust OS-curated animations but not random-website-curated animations. It's a browser preference, not necessarily an OS-wide preference. (But I do think that inheriting it is sensible!)
As with all things customiseable, Firefox has had this option for a long time. (But look for their Chrome-chasing to lead them to get rid of this option soon ….)
Here's a hammer Google has used before to make other websites tow their line: Peanlize their search rankings.
Also, so many parts of websites use gifs and canvas. If you start blocking those, you'll be hiding loading spinners, menus and more. You're adding ton and ton of complexity and going at war after something pretty silly.
If a website is abusive and does shitty things, just don't use the website. After some point, it's no longer the browsers job to babysit the web. I completely agreed with autoplaying audio, but blocking video is just not worth it.
What do you do if the aforementioned is not done by the website as such, but by some omnipresent, and hard to avoid 3rd party ad net?
> After some point, it's no longer the browsers job to babysit the web. I completely agreed with autoplaying audio, but blocking video is just not worth it.
Video is by far the heaviest piece of media out there. There is no practical means to reduce its loading time, especially on mobile. It simply cannot be considered an ordinary piece of page content.
Lastly, people are sick and tired of video ads, and, particularly, obscene, bombastic, and blinking like no tomorrow ones.
Use an ad blocker. Since mobile chrome doesn't allow adblocking, this means you will have to choose one of the many other mobile browsers that do.
Seriously gif is only used because it's autoplay predates widespread abuse of autoplay generally. Now is the time to put an end to it, at least as an option.
SVG has autoplaying animation possibilities.
You can also put anything into SVG with the foreign object element, so also videos.
So yes if someone stopped me abusing the users with my autoplaying videos I might decide to abuse them with SVG before these other options.
(Yes, you can technically "embed" YouTube videos, but they play in the YouTube player with all of its chrome and only in widescreen with letterboxing if your aspect ratio doesn't fit)
Which touches on something that drives me insane. Browsers are reinventing the OS and they are leaving out all the tools useful for managing one's computer. I should be able to identify which tab is using tons of CPU. Which tabs are using lots of RAM. I should be able to stop a particular bit of script (aka process.) WTF do I get a pop up telling me a script may be causing a page to be slow, but nothing identifying which of the five to six tabs in my eight to ten browser windows it is?
Another thing that would be nice is if I had a setting in the browser that allowed me to specify how many ms/sec a script is allowed to run. It would be pleasant to be able to limit scripts to 1 ms per second of run time.
Firefox already has config options to disable image animations and canvas. I've had them on for ages and sites work fine.
Maybe they can re-enable popup windows too since sites replaced them with interstitials long ago.
Chrome's dominance needs to end, this is blatantly anti user. Google could have de-ranked sites with hostile behavior a decade ago and we wouldn't be dealing with any of this stuff. But they won't, because ad money.
They already block what they consider to be 'bad' ads on websites. This is just them giving up because there's no strategic value in making a user-focused browser.
The user intent is clearly to not show large animations on the page without user consent. Seems just as easy to block large animated gifs, or canvas updates, with the same browser setting.
It takes only one of those 4k video ads to kill my data package within seconds, with me not even having an idea of that happening.
With amount of stuff you threw at adblock before, I can not keep assuming goodwill from your side. Your explanation about "giant gifs" is so disingenuous.
Intentionally releasing a virus to sell the cure their cure.
Right, but the point is that disabling autoplay video doesn’t stop that from happening. An ad network would use a canvas tag or a GIF instead. That’a not disingenuous reasoning, it’s exactly what they do!
In your situation you need some kind of browser setting to limit download size, because that’s your problem. Not the method by which that huge amount of data is being presented on screen.
Then deal with the canvas tag or GIF, like Firefox already has the capability to. Don't suddenly decide it isn't worth the effort.
The GIF/Canvas problem is something critics brought up when Chrome first introduced its automatic autoplay blocking. Chrome's autoplay blocking didn't go far enough to block all media types, and it had fundamental design flaws that made it easy to circumvent and easy for websites to detect when a video is blocked. Blocking autoplay was never about saving data -- there were always going to be these kinds of circumvention techniques. Data-saving solutions require different strategies.
But because ultimately Chrome just wanted to do its own thing and get those positive press releases, and because the Chrome devs were trying to fix multiple unrelated problems at the same time, we got a really weird Frankenstein implementation instead of something sensible like auto-muting browser tabs on new domains by default. This is a result that could have been avoided by engaging more with the web community and spending more time up-front thinking about how the feature was going to be used in the wild. Instead it got rushed out because the Chrome dev team digs in its heels and gets combative whenever developers question their decisions.
This result is especially frustrating with autoplay, because digging in heels and rushing the implementation didn't just leave us with a useless feature -- it broke functionality on a ton of websites, including Google's own search page. We got a hacky solution that was rolled out too early and that broke the web because Google insisted they needed an behaviorally-driven, complicated system with a bunch of weird rules and exceptions about when things would and wouldn't be able to play.
And now all of the minor benefits from that system are getting removed and all of the justifications for breaking existing sites are apparently being rolled back -- but we're still left with a hacky solution that breaks websites. We got the worst of all possible worlds because the Chrome team is apparently just unable to engage with developer communities.
As a web dev, I am low-key bitter about how this all played out. This is exactly why it's a bad idea to give the Chrome team so much outsized control over web standards. They broke almost every indie web game online, forced multiple engines to release updates, and this is what we're left with? Because nobody on the Chrome team was capable of predicting that advertisers were going to start shipping GIFs?
The other problem, though, is that that makes adblockers a bigger performance win.
There's especially no going back for Google for whom it's very much a feature since they try to reimplement and replace the OS from within the browser.
The _only_ way to block autoplaying video is to block all animation, which means all of:
- animated GIFs
- CSS animation
- partial rendering (showing the top part of a page before the entire page is done downloading)
Everyone else calling for just blocking animated GIFs and canvas is just going to be hit by even more CPU and bandwidth intensive workarounds.
What is funny is that when you search for "Chrome disable autoplay" one of the top results is the extension
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/disable-html5-auto... - which adds srvtrck.com (blocked by uBlock origin) for each request. This is not the web browsing experience I want to live with.
As an insider, do you think Google in 2020 would attempt to try to use its near-monopoly on search to force users to use other Google products they don't want and can't opt out of?
(From the outside this is what it seems like to me, so curious what the feeling is like on the inside.) Thanks for your honesty.
2. Make the mobike web worse to shove AMP down our throats
On the contrary, Apple will savage decades old APIs just to marginally improve privacy . Which is what Google would do if users were the customer.
Apple is problematic in many ways, but I'm glad there's at least one mega-corporation that's really staked out privacy and user experience as a selling point for paying customers.
autoplaying unmuted videos have been disabled on almost every browser, on desktop and on mobile, for years. This isn't unique to Safari and Apple.
This is specifically about autoplaying muted videos, which gifs and canvas can replace.
It was literally to work around their own restriction:
With todays major browsers landscape the differences are much more subtle. From a developer productivity perspectice I don't think it matters that much anymore, none is really a 10x or even a 3x browser over the others.
So I don't see a huge developer exodus happing for Chrome as long as they don't completely cripple their web dev experience.
Either use Firefox on Android or give up. For desktop, you have at least Firefox, Otter Browser, and Epiphany as options.
Now as a reply to this specific comment, I've tried Firefox multiple times on Android and always hated it. So I obviously can't advocate people use something I hate. But I do wish there were more...options.
I really try to support everything that exists, especially non-Chrome.
And yet, I am not excited to download Otter Browser. Its website and SourceForge (i.e. the very fact they're using Sourceforge) do not inspire confidence that they're not modern and up-to-date enough to actually be safe to even use (browser attack surface is massive). Am I wrong in translating this first impression to a judgement on safety?
It feels like they are just force-feeding the 'UX features' of Chrome and ignoring all the feedback from the tech community.
Things like truncating url sub-domains and hiding the url address bar with dynamictoolbar are not necessarily wrong features. However, to me they should always be opt-in, they should never be fixed defaults as what we have now in the latest upgrade of Firefox for Android.
Firefox used to be about freedom and customization. If I want to break it by messing with about:config then I should be able. If I want to break it with a non-compatible add-on then I should be able to. This whole UX mindset of padding the room and "we know better than you what you should want" feels very dismaying especially for a project that exists because of community contributions.
Google knows that with their high usage numbers (partly thanks to Android and Firefox's mistakes in the 2000s to mid 2010's, they can do pretty much anything and will still keep their Chrome browser popularity. This is thanks to Android and the general population across the world who don't care enough about their privacy. Plus, if someone uninstalls Chrome where will they go? To Brave (Chromium), Opera(Chromium), Edge(Chromium), Vivaldi(Chromium), or Firefox.
Google needs to improve its ability to lead. Which is not the same thing as being wedded to an idea and insular.
- Allow All Auto-Play
- Stop Media with Sound
- Never Auto-Play
This can be configured on a global level, or on a site-by-site basis.
According to https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=106364..., it was removed because it didn't actually stop sites from autoplaying video:
> full autoplay blocking is counter productive as images and <canvas> can do "video" playback just fine. We had this issue on mobile and ended up enabling muted autoplay there to avoid that issues.We found many websites having 100MB gifs that could be one order of magnitude smaller when implemented as <video autoplay muted>.
(Disclaimer: I work on Chrome at Google, but not on media.)
Though I guess in the extreme case a webpage could have a huge grid of 1x1px divs that change color in a requestAnimationFrame callback based on data retrieved over XHR.
So I can kinda see their point of view. It still seems a bit too far in the other direction if you ask me though.
... But enough grumbling. I wanted to point out the following documents for more context:
https://blog.chromium.org/2017/09/unified-autoplay.html (Somewhat wordsmithed...)
...and it turns out I was right! "It doesn't work all the time, let's remove it." Frankly, I really really hate that attitude.
At least the option would have some effect, now it has none. That is clearly a worse situation than before.
Fuck this idiotic slow boiling of the users.
Asking on HN for a random chrome engineer using a fresh throwaway (created for this specific post) to look at your 11 hour old low priority performance bug for a specific piece of hardware seems misguided. There are hundreds of engineers working on Chrome -- it is extremely unlikely this person is the right SME for this bug, and even if they were, how could they possibly do anything to your bug internally without revealing their identity?
I wonder more about why people accept their anti-competitive behavior when Microsoft was shafted for doing pretty much the same thing.
I guess what baffles me even more is the talk on HN whenever something bad about Chrome comes up; it seems like most of the people commenting in those threads... run Chrome. Why? I'm not saying Firefox is perfect, and there are certainly places where it's lacking when compared to Chrome, but you'd think that the HN crowd (which, I know, isn't a homogeneous bunch) would largely be Firefox users.
I see so much posted on HN about outrage over privacy issues (in general, not specific to Google/Chrome), and yet... seems like most of those people use Chrome? It's confusing, to say the least. Switching to Firefox isn't going to fix everyone's internet privacy issues, but I find it hard to take someone seriously when they simultaneously rage about online privacy and use Chrome.
> if you used Google Mail or anything else by Google, they'd repeatedly put notifications telling you that Chrome is great and why don't you download it?
Is this still true, though? I seem to remember seeing something like that 5+ years ago, but I use GMail and Docs all the time, and never see anything that tells me to install Chrome.
But to be super fair to Google, it certainly was an excellent browser initially, far far better than the competition - in terms of simplicity, performance, ease of use etc. Now its just a data collection/spying apparatus for Google, and I can't ethically use it anymore. I finally managed to convince our IT to switch everyone over to Firefox, and block Google's tracking completely. The later should probably be a best practice for IT anyway.
I'll take your word for it that these happens or happened, but I just tried a search in Safari and saw no Chrome ads.
I don't think so. I switched to firefox as my main browser. Firstly there are few sites that only work in chrome so I kept chrome installed. Secondly at least to me, it is noticeably reduced battery life with firefox.
Why did I switch then? Mostly for privacy and control, and the tab management which is much better in firefox.
That's sorta reasonable I guess? Is that normal, though? I don't think I ever run into sites that only work on Chrome. Occasionally I run into sites that don't work, but that's pretty much always due to my adblocking settings.
Secondly at least to me, it is noticeably reduced battery life with firefox.
I find this odd, because I run Linux, where battery life is supposed to be terrible (vs. Windows on the same hardware), and yet I can leave Firefox idling with 500+ tabs open and the battery will still take 4 hours to half-drain.
For both of these things, though, I find it hard to believe that the average internet user would think to blame Firefox. Site isn't working? Site must be broken, oh well, I'll do something else. Battery seems to be draining faster? Weird, maybe I have a virus, I'll get my family tech-savvy person to reinstall Windows or something.
I guess it just makes me sad that "my battery doesn't last quite as long" is for some people -- especially those who post on HN who clearly use Chrome -- more important than not running a browser that serves mainly to drive Google's advertising and tracking machine. (Glad to hear that you, at least, weighed both sides of it and came to what I consider a better conclusion.)
Either way, I stand by my opinion that the causes of the pre-Quantum gripes are largely gone. No, not 100% gone, but I feel like we're well past the point that Firefox's remaining issues are more important than doing something to reduce privacy leakage.
Plus, when I abandoned Firefox for good (about a year ago) pinch-to-zoom STILL DID NOT WORK. This was in 2019. Seriously.
And they pay people to fiddle with VRML/WebVR instead of fixing all this.
The vast, vast majority of that C++ is legacy crud that gets #ifdef'ed out -- Mozilla development style seems to be to never remove code, ever; just #ifdef it out. Also there's a ton of boilerplate in there due to their homegrown IDL.
1. Killing Google Reader
2. Removing swipe from Google News feed (both Chrome homepage and News feed in Android that's part of the launcher)
3. Deprecating Google Play Music and switching to Youtube Music (the interface is horrible and intended for videos). I'm a paying user of Google Play Music and this is idiotic.
4. Random recommendations in Youtube, especially more of the same. I have to open one-off videos in a private window so that I don't get recommendations
5. Minor changes in G Suite that make no sense (I'm forgetting what these are at the moment)
6. Showing ads for everything even when I'm just looking for medical information
7. GBoard suddenly asking me to add misspelled words to the dictionary
8. Google Maps interface changes (all the freaking time)
I really wish Google would send all its PMs on a sabbatical for a while so that I can go about using these products in peace without random changes.
1. I was annoyed at killing reader too. However, in hindsight before we had Google reader and that was it. Now there is Feedly, Feedbin and multiple self hosted aggregators. And a plethora of RSS clients. RSS did not “die” because of lack of tech around it but because majority prefers twitter and Facebook. Had Reader stayed, would people be lamenting its dominant position?
I have cookies disabled however, with that, it means I then get the popup every single time I play the video.
They just happen to be the 2 million most vocal people in tech circles...
It wasn't sustainable
That's less than $3 per user. Google can't squeeze $3/year in ad revenue out of a product used primarily by wealthy plugged-in tech types?
Google is a huge company with very little of what could be considered a unified vision. It doesn’t make that much sense to talk about Google as a single unit but as many teams with vague corporate influences.
I think it’s reasonable to be a little conservative when any decision you make has to work for billions of installs and every unknown website.
(megachurch pastor conmen)
Checkout kiwi: https://github.com/kiwibrowser/src
Though, no idea about extensive security.
(I know, sarcasm is lowest form of humor)
Why wait? Firefox on Android works fine and accepts extensions, including, yes, uBlock Origin. Your experience will be a million times better.
(Microsoft and Brave both depend on Chrome, however.)
> It did well enough until there was real competition
"Real" competition doesn't have to artificially cripple high profile sites to compete. The chrome style of competition gave us ShadowDom v0 on youtube, disappearing features in maps and gmail, empty html elements that only seemed to be there to prevent Edge from accelerating video playback and constant popups reminding users to "upgrade" to Chrome.
I really wish that Chrome wasn't so dominant. Google has all it's incentives in the wrong place, and therefore can't be trusted to fight for the user.
The logic kind of makes sense. Autoplay videos already have to be muted so there’s no issue with sound. And if you disable video then idiot ad providers will resort to alternatives that chew up considerably more bandwidth and/or CPU.
I guess they need a setting to disable all canvas tags and GIFs and all autoplay videos.
I'm reminded of Steve Jobs comment on 'toner heads' and why Xerox failed. Google is now run by MBA's and Ad people. So they will continue to do things like this.
Or giving users in Chrome a Report Button that then filtered into site rankings.
PS: Oops, another guy posted the link earler.
I've tried changing the autoplay setting from "block audio" to "block audio and video", but that breaks sites, especially the ones that assume you have autoplay enabled and don't have controls available. It's also hard to know when something's broken. I see a static image and I'm left to wonder whether it's a video that's hasn't started yet or it's actually a picture. For some sites, blocking autoplay don't even prevent the videos from loading because they start video playback during an onScroll event, which makes the browser think the playback was user-initiated.
If for some reason you absolutely have to spend time on a broken site like that it’s pretty easy to delete the video (or dickbar or ad or whatever) with the web inspector.
In general links to anything other than eg lkml or lwn make me pretty uncomfortable tbf.
Compile your browser without support for video codecs.
99% of the time I don't care if no videos play back in my browser.
0.9% of the time the video is on youtube, so I can youtube-dl it to watch with mpv, which kicks the crap out of every in-browser video playback UI ever created.
The remaining 0.1% of the time I fire up a separate browser that does have video codecs.
Web video is simply unnecessary. Try life without it, you won't mind.
My filter list is here: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/aembleton/Arthurs-Annoyanc...
DNS-over-HTTPS adds a few kinks to this but does not prevent the inherent concept.
It will require some fiddling on first visit through.
What‘s up with those videos? How do the increase positive metrics for websites?
I haven't looked into it, who knows I might have flipped the switch.
But previously they would or would not autoplay on both as far as I can recall
They're not about to make their own product limit their own whims!
I usually just use the media controls on my keyboard to un-pause it without actually clicking the modal.
But then again, it was reported 9 months ago. It should have been fixed by now.
It might not be true in this instance, but I've seen so many times where "the option doesn't fully work and hasn't been working for a while, so let's just remove it entirely" has happened to features in other products.
That is the case for only a single country in the whole world
Facebook and Twitter have been doing it in their apps. The mobile apps are more popular than the web pages. The exodus to native apps has already been happening. The web has evolved from the days of static text content, like it or hate it, if you stop the progress, the web will die.
And really, some suggestions don’t make sense. Stopping the auto-playing of GIFs? That’s the whole point of GIFs, and you’re 15 years too late.