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Google has removed the option to disable autoplay from Mobile Chrome (support.google.com)
396 points by baybal2 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 232 comments

(disclaimer: I work at Google, not on Chrome)

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.

Then maybe the solution is to also have the option turn off animated GIFs and perhaps frequent canvas repaints too; and not simply give up completely!

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.

This is the common sense solution.

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.

I dream of a search engine that heavily penalizes websites with advertisements on it.

Seems unlikely given the biggest search engine makes the majority of its money from ads :(

Search engines dont earn money from ads on other sites though. The problem is that all alternative engines are based on google and bing, and that wont change soon, so there's no flexibility.

Google earns money from ads on all sorts of websites.

And if you replace videos with gigabytes of gifs, customers will leave because the gifs take ages to load.

Or complain that their browser is slow/ battery life is abysmal.

I remember implementing some web proxy monitoring a while ago, and I had a whole list of sites I had to ignore because of stuff like this. HN homepage would take a handful of milliseconds to load, but some sites would routinely take 10-20 second to get to the window load. Somebody asked “but what if a user complains that cnn.com is loading too slowly?”, and we all agreed we’d just have to tell them to get in touch with CNN.

That's how autoplay videos were originally implemented on mobile browsers. Implementations included GIFs, or giant JPGs of stitched video frames switched out with JS. Some even used video decoders that were transpiled to JS and there are webassembly versions now too.

It was all replaced when browsers finally implemented video tags that played in screen, but the tech still exists.

BigG couldn't do that (disable other user hostile media) because it would interfere with ads.

Now I'm looking for a gif and canvas blocker for FF mobile. Any hints on how to tune uBO?

You can just block all <canvas> tags with a `##canvas` rule for uBlock Origin. It of course breaks some real sites, but not on anything I use regularly. A canvas repaint rate limit could be nice, though I have been surprised at how little I notice all canvas tags just being blocked.

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.

Gifs are trickier. I'll often see non-animated images in gif format. uBO doesn't have the power to block images based on file size. (The file size isn't even known until the start of the fetch)

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.

IE6 or even lower had the option to show and load only the first frame.

You can't turn off gifs or canvas because it would just break too much internet.

I could imagine and equal reaction thread here if google deemed some gifs and canvas uses "unworthy" and were blockable.

Not sure how it would break the internet at all, can you say that you have ever had a user experience improved by auto playing anything?

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.

Agree -- I mean even Buzzfeed of all sites usually doesn't auto-play their gifs[0]; you get a static image with a play button that swaps to the gif when you click it.

[0] 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.

This is not an excuse - the user should have the freedom to disable whatever they want - who is to say that your definition of a broken internet matches mine?


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.

Another organisation's guiding principles suggest an alternate viewpoint:

Individuals must have the ability to shape the internet and their own experiences on it.


Mozilla's slogan used to say "putting users in control", which was then silently(?) replaced with "individuals":


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.

I see "individuals" as generally preferable to "users", though possibly less clear as to ... er, use role.

Turning off canvas only breaks tracking. Very few sites require it to work. Firefox will ask you to enable it on a per-site bases by enabling privacy.resistFingerprinting.

Canvas is video (or spyware). If I don't want autopay video, I don't want autoplay canvas.

It what way would putting a play button on gifs above a certain file size break the internet?

> You can't turn off gifs or canvas because it would just break too much internet.

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.

Why limit it based on resolution? When 'disable autoplay' is selected, i would like play button for all videos, animated GIFs or animated SVGs.

It would be nice if the browser knew how big the gifs were before it downloaded them, and thus didn't download anything over a certain size.

Isn't the size in the header? (Which yea, could be faked, or sent as Chunked) the USER-agent could just make a cap, and stop after 1mb when image/gif media type

HTTP allows the body length to be specified in the header before the body is downloaded via the `Content-Length` header. It also allows you to stream the body in chunks by setting the `Transfer-Encoding` header to `chunked`, as you've mentioned, in which case each chunk starts with its own length. In both cases, the length cannot be faked because the recipient will stop pulling bytes after the specified length, as that's the purpose of sending such length (after there's no more bytes according to the latest length, the connection is free to be used for a subsequent response)!

> Then maybe the solution is to also have the option turn off animated GIFs

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.

> 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.

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 ….)

> Then maybe the solution is to also have the option turn off animated GIFs

Here's a hammer Google has used before to make other websites tow their line: Peanlize their search rankings.

How about restricting the frame rate of all elements until some heuristic determines that the user has interacted with them?

Restricting framerate will still download the 100mb GIF.

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.

> If a website is abusive and does shitty things, just don't use the website.

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.

> 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?

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.

This is not a duty of adblocker. You don't have it to be an ad to bust your data package.

I'd like the option to abort downloading once a gif reaches the first full frame or 1MB. Whichever comes first. Looks like Chrome will never be that browser.

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.

Canvas and gifs could be an opt-in feature on a per-website basis, just like notifications and webcam access.

With that logic, soon every single feature in the browser will have a pop up saying "Do you want to allow losing <img>?", "Do you want to allow use of "cursor css style?", etc.

SVG is smaller in a vast majority of those cases and looks better to boot

SVG can have non svg images inside of it.

SVG has autoplaying animation possibilities.

SVG has JavaScript if you are putting it directly into the body of the page.

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.

I didn't think about that. That's depressing.

Using a browser from an ad company will do that to you

You can turn off GIF animation in Chrome, you are still downloading the giantass GIF. Slowing down canvas repaints if one of your overall goals is web applications that have feature and performance parity with desktop ones is, I think, unlikely. I'm a bit more surprised Google (and all browser vendors) aren't more proactive in just killing off animated GIFs.

Except animated GIFs are the only way to have embedded "video" in Google Slides.

(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)

Both are made by Google so this feels like one of the easier things Google can fix. Twitter and FB are essentially aGIF-less and they don't even make popular browsers!

Facebook plays gif in its native format and it doesn’t autoplay.

That's why they suggest to use <video> for replacing GIF.

> perhaps frequent canvas repaints too;

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.

I agree with you in principle but is more nuanced than that, lets say an user taps a link they think goes to a gif, according to you there should be a play button over the gif? You would be killing a lot of traffic for that site because that annoys users, or imagine a site with infinite scroll (ala twitter) with funny gifs, should the user have to click each single gif they want to watch? Plus keep in mind the users would save a lot of (maybe costly) bandwidth and battery if they used muted videos instead of GIFS so why use them?

That's why it is (or was...) an option, and ideally should be a per-site one.

This is infact a common feature on smaller browsers.

Could you name them? I want to download.

Or mark said sites as malicious. No need to select the most anti-user solution.

Publishers found gaping holes in their blocking and response is to give up.

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.

> Google could have de-ranked sites with hostile behavior a decade ago and we wouldn't be dealing with any of this stuff.

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.


If publishers can’t make money off subs or ads in browsers, content will simply move to Facebook.

I dread updates from google for there apps they break and change stuff that majorly upsets my workflow all the time. The worst I can remember was the no longer unlock screen with google assistant updates like a few years ago. I was at the hospitable in the morning after that update and many sad handless people could not use their life lines because of a fucking update.

This doesn't pass the smell test, at all. This is the equivalent of saying "Oh no, spammers have discovered we're blocking emails with 'Viagra' in them so now they're spelling it 'V1agra', might as well give up and not try to block that penis enlargement spam."

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.

Man, who came with that idea? I really want to know the name of that product manager.

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.

If mobile web becomes significantly worse, Google will have evidence to back AMP.

Intentionally releasing a virus to sell the cure their cure.

I use the Firefox mobile option of not loading media on the site when not on wifi and it helps me stay on 300mb data plan easy

> 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.

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.

> 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!

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.

Okay, then don't autoplay gifs and click-to-enable canvas. Webpages shouldn't be able to move before user interaction.

I don't want to pile on the Chrome team for what is ultimately an at least somewhat sensible decision in the moment. And I 100% appreciate the context you're providing. But this is such a frustrating comment to read!

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?

On the contrary, better to let them be horribly inefficient, so that they're noticeably worse than alternatives that don't do that.

The other problem, though, is that that makes adblockers a bigger performance win.

That's what happens when you let anybody and their friends run arbitrary code on the user's CPU. Javascript running by default was the original sin, and now there's no going back. IMO it ought to have been opt-in for the websites that really need it (i.e. web apps I actually want to use, not any random page I happen to stumble upon).

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.

Animated gifs are not arbitrary code and require no javascript. You're not really making a point that actually counters GP...

Animated gifs are obviously trivial to block, so it doesn't seem worth even addressing that. The other half of the GP talks about rendering directly to canvas, using JavaScript...

This comment was downvoted at the time I'm replying to it, but it's honestly the only reasonable objection here.

The _only_ way to block autoplaying video is to block all animation, which means all of:

- animated GIFs

- nearly all JavaScript

- 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.

Frankly, for me, the autoplay issue was the straw that broke the camel's back. With Firefox, I keep autoplay disabled and only enable it on some sites. Otherwise the browser becomes unusable, especially on some news websites. Therefore your explanations make little sense to me because this option works in Firefox perfectly - at least for me.

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.

If only there were some way to penalize bloated websites exhibiting anti-user behavior. /s

>(disclaimer: I work at Google, not on Chrome)

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.

Auto playing gifs are also distracting when reading text and I would love to be able to suppress them.

Other then tracking and toy games what are legitimate use cases for canvas on big sites?

Yeah but the sites that allow that garbage are 99% garbage. I want to block autoplay and can think of very very few things that slipped through. Particularly on news sites. I won't visit sites that allow stuff like that, and I'd bet that most people don't either. You shoudl optimize for those parts of your application that are most important and used most often. Amdahl's law

The gif excuse doesn’t make sense. If Google was really concerned about that they would also provided a way to block huge gif, in addition to auto-play video.

Two real reason for this:

1. Ads

2. Make the mobike web worse to shove AMP down our throats

Huh, if it were my software I'd add the option of allowing 100MB GIFs or only on demand, and whether the browser should automatically stream blobs for the canvas or not...

There are ways to bypass it. You can always stream 1MB of data from 100 different domains.

Regardless, the solution is not to (explicitly, i.e. removing the option was a conscious effort) give up.

I guess it's just like discussion about Do-Not-Track where having these headers actually make it easier to track you for malicious actors.

Wouldn't be hard to show a prompt after 10 megs to allow any other data to be loaded.

Wouldn't they get penalised for having massive/slow page load requirements?

A lot of comments here trying to explain this away but let me point out that Apple disabled autoplaying unmuted videos in moble Safari years ago (it's not even behind a setting as far as I know) and I can't imagine them backing off of that any time soon.

On the contrary, Apple will savage decades old APIs just to marginally improve privacy [0]. 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.

[0] https://webkit.org/blog/10218/full-third-party-cookie-blocki...

> autoplaying unmuted videos

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.

So block autoplaying animated gifs and canvas animations?

In the canvas case it wouldn’t block the huge downloads, it would just stop them being visible.

Just by not being visible it would already be a better experience for the user.

You might be surprised how few users agree with you on this point - or rather, care enough to engage in the conversation at all. Blocking non-muted video is something most people are happy about. Blocking mute animations, I don't think many people are gonna waste much energy caring about it.

Apple was also the one who invented this terrible “individual video frames on a canvas” technique for their next device launch homepage, six months later.

It was literally to work around their own restriction:


This. I’ve just gotten my pine phone and am going through all the trouble of recompiling basic software just to have a working phone that isn’t a “smartphone” and even I appreciated what apple did with mobile safari.

Hadn't heard of Pine or Pinephone before. Thanks looks really neat.

Can we get safari on android? (Rhetorical question.)

This is weird. They see the general tech community slowly turning against them and they double down on all the wrong things they were doing that caused the negativity.

The only tech people that matter much to Google are the ones who work for them, and considering that there will always be one person saying "I work for Google and here's why I think this is A-ok" on every thread like this, suggests that demographic is still in their pocket. See the top comment on this post.

The general tech community is a tiny fraction of their user base, though. Put simply, they don’t care.

I subscribe to the idea that the tech community overlaps with the definition of "early adopters", who become zealots driving everyone else's adoption


I agree. But I think the early adoptors mattered back in 2008.I reckon, with the dominance they now have, they are fine with some developers moving to firefox while still having time to react if they pull too many "normal" users with them. Especially since Mozilla isnt exactly peak popularity in terms of vision either.

IE was also absurdly dominant back then. I appreciate the fact that we now live in a world where everything is integrated, so the costs of switching are higher, but it's not impossible

Sure but IE back then was also severely lacking in pretty much every regard and stopped any tangible development. At least every developer I know back then switched away from it primarly because of developer tooling available in other browsers secondarly because of lack of other features.

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.

Agreed. I've turned my wife, daughter, and Mom, none of whom are tech oriented at all, into Brave converts on mobile.

Unfortunately, that helps exactly zilch. Brave, along with all other Blink/Chromium based browsers and frameworks, further entrenches Chrome as the platform.

Either use Firefox on Android or give up. For desktop, you have at least Firefox, Otter Browser, and Epiphany as options.

I see your point, but I wasn't listing my example as helping or hurting any cause, just how 'techies' can have influence on the broader community. If it helps, you could replace the word Brave with Firefox, for example. If I show three people, and they show three people, etc, we can have big influences on market shares.

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'm a browser junkie. I have about 20 browsers installed in my macOS - some Firefox-based, some Google-based, others weird little ones, and of course Safari.

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?

...and you can keep using IE too, or even the NetSurf/Dillo/etc. if you want to be really against "big browsers".

The problem is they don't need early adopters anymore, almost everyone already adopted their thing.

I subscribe to this idea too. Unfortunately, I think Google is too large, too influential, and too entrenched for the standard tech adoption life cycle to be the dominant factor.

This is actually my worry with the new direction of Firefox on Android which I assume is mostly a push from the Mozilla 'Foundation'/corp.

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.

Exactly. Those that care and / or know enough to care are a tiny fraction of the population, in the same vein as those who care enough to use Linux instead of Windows.

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.

It's pretty difficult to change your momentum, product at google has decided on a direction and it will take a lot change that.

See "Google Plus"

Then that's bad product management. Staying the course is one thing, but realizing you're off course is also important.

Google needs to improve its ability to lead. Which is not the same thing as being wedded to an idea and insular.

Or maybe higher levels have had a cost/benefit analysis before letting this happen?

Works for Apple.

Not sure what you're referring to, but Safari has three configurable options for auto-play:

- 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.

Does it handle blocking autoplaying gifs and canvas? If not, it's not really solving the problem then.


Would you please stop breaking the site guidelines?


I was curious about the rationale for this, so I did a quick search on chrome's issue tracker [1].

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.)

[1]: https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/list?q=media%20s...

That's an argument for disabling large GIF autoplay or tying it to the autoplay setting, not for removing the autoplay setting entirely!

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...)



I notice your comment just a second after I posted this comment that suggests a reason: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24403934

...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.

Well... not so much "it doesn't work all the time", but "publishers are reacting to the existence of this option by using grossly inefficient alternatives which we can't block".

Then let them...!

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.

Except the alternatives can be blocked.

How so? It's not only that it doesn't work, but that it is actively making the web worse.


>Sry for harassing here. If someone could look at the recent Android Webview v85 bug that has broken my app, that would be great. I raised a bug today for it https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=112552...

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?

Pinging a bug five minutes after filing it is also an ...interesting... approach.

I don't get why Firefox's market share is still so low when compared to Chrome's. I get why FF fell behind over the last decade, but since Firefox Quantum those reasons have largely disappeared.

Techies don't like to think about it, but it's obvious. The only reason why Chrome has come to dominate the market is because Google leveraged their monopoly in search. And even beyond Google Search, 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? Then there's using all those billions of dollars to pay everybody to help advertise Chrome by adding it to their installers as an opt-out. It's no wonder Chrome is everywhere, Google did their best to abuse their position to ensure that it was a foregone conclusion.

I wonder more about why people accept their anti-competitive behavior when Microsoft was shafted for doing pretty much the same thing.

Yeah, that's almost certainly true. I hadn't considered the advertising angle, since I generally don't see ads. But most people do.

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.

Then IE should be number one browser on windows, right? I haven't seen any nagging for chrome in past few years but seen lot for IE. Have you seen the notifications now or just guessing that they would be sending notifications. Any screenshots would be helpful.

They also paid Dell to make it the default, but I suppose that's more ethical than tricking people to install it by bundling it with Adobe Flash or whatever other junk.

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.

Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows and made it impossible for users to remove it. That's not at all "pretty much the same thing."

Okay, do you care to address the core point of my comment? These are two examples of anti-competitive behavior. The details might differ, but the core idea of what they did and how they did it is the same (abusing their dominant position to anti-competitively disadvantage competitors). Yet Google gets a pass because "capitalism".

I've used Google search daily for many, many years now without ever feeling the need to use Chrome. I use Safari on my laptop and mobile Safari on my phone. I can't recall the last time I saw anything pushing me towards Chrome.

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.

But Chrome is the new Internet Explorer.

> but since Firefox Quantum those reasons have largely disappeared.

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.

> Firstly there are few sites that only work in chrome so I kept chrome installed.

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.

From a tech geek perspective, Firefox is the "emacs of browsers".

They wrote a (lisp/js) interpreter and then wrote the (editor/browser) in that language. Unfortunately using a much more weakly-typed language [to write what is almost an OS of its own] yielded a mass of unmaintainable, constantly-mutating bloatware. They claim to be rewriting the interpreter layer in Rust, which is awesome, but 99% of the browser will still be written in javascript.

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.

Not sure where you're getting your information, but the majority of Firefox is written in C++, not Javascript.


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.

Google continues the war against its own users.

Indeed. A list of Google's decisions that drive me crazy.

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.

Disclaimer: I work for Google

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?

As your a google employee, whats the reason of google suddenly implementing YouTube "Sign in to continue" popups when I try to use YouTube?

I have cookies disabled however, with that, it means I then get the popup every single time I play the video.

Not if it stayed a user-friendly tool. Which it probably wouldn't.

Google reader only had 2 million users.

They just happen to be the 2 million most vocal people in tech circles...

there are several dozen countries with lower populations that that.


There are over 2 billion MAU on Google Maps...so for Google, yes its only...

It wasn't sustainable

Most normal companies are okay with small divisions. Sometimes they'll sell them off. It feels like Google is like Intel. They reflexively kill anything that isn't going to be worth a few hundred million in revenue.

Alphabet has a revenue per employee of $1.5M. In order to keep that number they need big hits. That's why small products just get abandoned / die.

I'm now thinking about the math here. If they put Reader in maintenance mode, even with big-company inefficiency it'd probably only take three full-time engineers to keep it running. That means that they'd need revenue of $4.5M per year to stay competitive with other Google departments.

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?

Why not allow users to specify that they do not want any site with autoplay videos (in any shape) to show up in their top results? Alternatively - when Google shows a search result, indicate if the website has autoplay videos, this way I can avoid clicking it.

This thread is a microcosm of the problems with the world at large atm. 70% of the response are people frothing at the mouth outrages over those evil "other people" when the other people had nothing but good intentions. Then absolutely refusing to see those good intentions and painting everything as poorly as possible.

I’m not sure Google is entitled to any charitable opinions at this point.

Why? The engineers in the bug tracker seem to be making this change specifically to improve user experience. Trying to plug the hole by blocking gifs, canvas, and whatever people would think of next seems worse than just letting them do the right thing.

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.

So true. Add in the old-school absolutists that believe that everything more complicated than links should be banned and that people should play videos by interpreting the raw octet stream, and it makes up pretty much everyone in this thread.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

The road to heaven is also paved with bad ones.

(megachurch pastor conmen)

I can't have Ublock origin, so mobile chrome is already a shit show.

Firefox on android did have the option to have ublock as an extension (luckily)

Yeah, which is why I stick with it even though they just butchered a few areas of the UI (most notably the home screen). Fortunately they seem to be listening to reviews and fixing things.

Yeah, I don't understand why Mozilla thought this latest release was ready for production.

Does anyone know if there is a way in the new Firefox for Android to stop it from keeping my tabs open when I close the window without using "Quit"?

There is now an option to close tabs I think. After a time period like a day or a week. It's in beta

Yes, there's an option in Settings to close open tabs on quit.

Thank you for trying to help, but I think you missed a part of the question.

Ah, you're right. No, there isn't an option to do this without explicitly Quitting. I find it a glaring omission myself, along with the fact that deleting Browsing History and Site Data are combined into a single option.

Some chromium browsers support extension on mobile or come up with their own pretty ad blocker (it's adequate).

Checkout kiwi: https://github.com/kiwibrowser/src

Though, no idea about extensive security.

Clearly Google was listening to the hoards of users who were incessant in asking that auto-play be mandatory without exception.

(I know, sarcasm is lowest form of humor)

Googles users are companies that buy ads, so no need for sarcasm.

> How to fix before I abandon Chrome entirely?

Why wait? Firefox on Android works fine and accepts extensions, including, yes, uBlock Origin. Your experience will be a million times better.

Need to drag in the entire clusterf*ck of CDNs hosting ads that accompanies with each YouTube video because ... revenue.

The cynic in me wonders about the timing of this happening shortly after backlash against the new Firefox mobile, and Mozilla lay-offs.

This change has been part of Chrome for many months. Look at the date on the report, for one.

The Chrome Team really needs to be broken away from Google.

Who is going to pay them?

"Nobody" would be a better situation than we have now.

(Microsoft and Brave both depend on Chrome, however.)


Identical code, different name. I think chromium will even side load the closed source DRM module the first chance it gets.

Firefox did well enough until chrome came along. It even managed to keep up until the recent downsizing. In other words your comment only makes sense if you just woke up from a thirty year long coma.

It did well enough until there was real competition? Firefox is only alive from fat Google Search checks. It’s a great example of a massive failure in this charity business model.

Given that Microsoft almost killed the entire browser industry just by releasing IE it is quite a success to be around decades later.

> 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.

Corporate users.

As much as I find Firefox less than user friendly at times (by comparison), it is worlds better when it comes to blocking unwanted items and putting the user first (For example Multi-account containers).

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.

There’s a [dead] post here from a Chrome engineer that links to the relevant Chrome issue:


> 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>.

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.

Doesn't slack look at the size of a gif and skip playing it if it's bigger than 4mb or something?

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.

It does, but the Slack servers still need to download the image first to know it’s size. There’s no equivalent for a browser. You could rely on Content-Length headers but then ad servers are just going to stop sending them.

You can download the first frame and then only download 4mb of the rest. If that's not the whole thing then don't download the rest. Or download up to 4mb and if there's more then ignore it and just pull the first frame from the 4mb. Or if the content-length isn't set then assume it's over 4mb and only download the first frame. Granted there's extra complexity in parsing the first frame from a gif in real time.

This is Google though. It would seem that they could update Googlebot to penalize bypassing behaviors, lowering SERPS for any property that did such shenanigans.

Or giving users in Chrome a Report Button that then filtered into site rankings.

The solution I've found is just to disable javascript altogether, then manually whitelist a small number of sites that don't work without js. Sure, a lot of the web stops working for me, but it's also probably the part of the web I don't want to see anymore anyway.

Just disabling 3rd party JS solves a lot of the problems. Still have to whitelist a lot, but it is easier than blocking which just feels like whack-a-mole.

If you're looking to switch and Firefox isn't your cup of tea, you'd probably like Kiwi -- it's based on Chromium and it has an integrated ad-blocker.


Why it's not mentioned anywhere on website that it's open source?


PS: Oops, another guy posted the link earler.

tangentially related: what's everyone's solution for blocking autoplaying sticky videos? By that I mean the kind that usually shows up on news sites or tech blogs. It usually manifests as a "recommended" video that's totally unrelated to the article at hand, and stars playing without you clicking the play button. If you scroll past the video, many of them convert to a sticky mini player that stays around wherever you scroll.

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.

My solution is to remember what site it is and never ever visit them again because that’s totally unacceptable.

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.

> what's everyone's solution for blocking autoplaying sticky videos?

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.

Disabling JS for the site works for most local news/non-newspaper sources :)

I choose not to visit those sites, they're on my (mental) block list. Typically if a link goes to a US news site, or a newspaper I won't follow it. As a result I get most general interest news from https://bbc.co.uk/news

Use UBlockOrigin, and every time you see one of those sticky thumb players, create a regex rule to remove it. I must have hundreds of those little rules in place on my browsers. I never searched how to send my list to one of the maintainers of the most popular ad/annoyance lists but I think now it's time.

I was doing that but it became frustrating, so I blocked all 3rd party JS and then whitelisted as I went around the web.

My filter list is here: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/aembleton/Arthurs-Annoyanc...

In addition to numerous suggestions: identifying and DNS-blocking the video distribution networks utilised by such sites is persuasively effective. PiHole, DNSBL, IP firewall, uMatrix, ir any similar mechanism.

DNS-over-HTTPS adds a few kinks to this but does not prevent the inherent concept.

Umatrix seems to do such a good job at messing with these sites dependencies that I usually don't see sticky videos at all. It allows you to block/allow individual classes of resources for each domain.

It will require some fiddling on first visit through.

Custom blocking rules based on css class / dom id... If I don‘t just close the page out or anger.

What‘s up with those videos? How do the increase positive metrics for websites?

Ad blocking.

That's the obvious solution but maintaining the list yourself is a hassle, and I don't know of any community maintained lists for this kind of thing.

Firefox for android allows extensions, so you can use ublock origin.

Usually I select Reader Mode

Not really. Just disable JS and you are good as gold. Even though JS is not technically required, find a website that doesn't load almost all media assets using JS. And when you occasionally need to use JS, just share the webpage with another browser like Edge that has JS enabled. Guru level mobile browsing.

The real scandal is that people still using Google's Chrome.

YouTube Android now seems to autoplay but not when you are casting.

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

Soooo google wants Autoplay ads on their sites too now!

They're not about to make their own product limit their own whims!

e option to disable autoplay on YOUTUbE was already somewhat hidden so that is not a big surprise....

I just noticed the first, Netflix like, 'are you still watching' challenge on YouTube, never had that before.

This happens to me a lot, but my use case is "watching" full music albums all day. Usually halfway through every other album it will pause and ask I'm "still watching".

I usually just use the media controls on my keyboard to un-pause it without actually clicking the modal.

This could also just be a mistake. There's often regressions or bugs in mobile chrome.

I mean, the issue literally is that the option exists, it just doesn't work. It doesn't sound intentional.

But then again, it was reported 9 months ago. It should have been fixed by now.

the option exists, it just doesn't work

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.

Don't be evil guys

abandon Chrome? oh nooooo!

I consider browser video autoplay more offensive than physical assault tbh.

Browser autoplay doesn't have the real-world consequence of needing medical attention and going thousands of dollars into debt.

> going thousands of dollars into debt

That is the case for only a single country in the whole world

...unless it triggers photosensitive epilepsy... which I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more obnoxious ads out there do.

Neither does a black eye.

I don’t understand what’s the problem with auto-playing muted video.

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.

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