Monday, June 12, 2017

Chrome: Disabling Autoplay Video/Audio

Chrome, a Google product, which used to have may user-friendly features, has progressively removed those features. One example is their removal of the feature to disable videos that automatically play when you open certain web sites. It was a broad feature that turned off plug-ins until you manually click on them to make them play. Several other browsers still have this feature, and a perusal of the mass number of complaints about this from an internet search, show that Chrome users are simply switching to those other browsers, such as Firefox (for Windows) and Safari (for Apple/Mac).

I HATE ads in general, particularly overlays & popups that prevent you from seeing a web page until you click on something to get rid of it, and any video/audio that automatically plays. As a former IT professional, forcing users to click on a popup/overlay to get rid of it is a GREAT way to download malware to computers, which is why I continually had to remind the staff in the departments where I tried to keep their computers safe, to NEVER EVER EVER click on any pop-ups, no matter how benign they seemed. I follow my own advice--if I can't "escape" out of a pop-up/overlay, I simply leave that site permanently. It's a horrible web design practice. I have 5 different ad/pop-up/overlay blockers installed as extensions to prevent these issues, and together they tend to work pretty well:

  • ScriptSafe
  • BehindTheOverlay
  • AdBlock
  • Adblock Plus
  • Ads Blocker for Facebook
But another pernicious issue is the videos/audio that automatically plays when you open web sites. The volume is usually incredibly loud, and frequently scares both me and my dogs. It's also obnoxious because I'm usually listening to music or TV, and sometimes miss whatever is happening on my show or the news. After having to reinstall Windows from scratch due to a crash, I had to find and reinstall all of the programs that prevented autoplay--none of the internet searches were helpful. For example, most sites claimed "Disable HTML5 Autoplay" stop those videos. It stops maybe half of them. Some sites, like CNN and USA Today, try multiple times in multiple ways to force you to watch videos--you can watch the web site continually try to reload as it fights with all of the various extensions designed to prevent video, popups and overlays.

Another approach is to disable Flash and Javascript. This tends to work, combined with Disable HTML5 Autoplay, but sites like CNN subvert this by using javascript for everything--for example, when I completely turned off javascript, the main CNN page would not load anything at all. So I successfully turned of the autoplay videos, but I also couldn't use the site since the text news or even headlines wouldn't load either.

SOLUTION: Unfortunately, there were no silver bullet extensions that successfully turned off all autoplay videos, and no "settings" in the most recent version of Chrome that allow you to turn off autoplay. The only way I was able to solve this problem was to uninstall Chrome and find an older version, pre-55. I found Chrome 54 from I did the following, all from Settings --> Advanced Settings --> Privacy --> Content Settings:

  1. Check "Block third-party cookies and site data"
  2. Javascript: "Do not allow any site to run JavaScript" (an option appears in the URL tab of each site that you can mark as exceptions to this rule--it's incredibly handy)
  3. Handlers: "Do not allow any site to handle protocols"
  4. Plugins: "Let me choose when to run plugin content"
  5. Pop-ups: "Do not allow any site to show pop-ups"
  6. Location: "Do not allow any site to track your physical location"
  7. Notifications: "Do not allow any site to show notifications"
  8. Unsandboxed plugin access: "Do not allow any sites to use a plugin to access your computer"
  9. You get the idea--I basically turned off absolutely everything in the "Privacy" section

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