Chrome wages war on autoplay videos

Autoplay videos can be one of the most annoying things on the internet. While the content they offer can sometimes be useful, they can also be quite jarring when users aren't expecting them. With this in mind, Google Chrome is going to lay down some new ground rules for autoplay videos in an upcoming build.

As outlined on the Chromium Blog, Chrome 64 will tweak Google's autoplay rules and restrict autoplay videos unless they play without sound or users have expressed an interest in that website's content in the past. What, exactly, does that mean? When determining whether or not to let an autoplay video through, Google will consider if that individual user has a history of playing media on the website in question.

Google currently offers an autoplay block in Chrome for Android, which attempts to stop autoplay videos from eating up data and battery life. That feature will be going away, potentially paving the way for more autoplay videos to run on devices where they were once banished entirely. In the end, it sounds like Google is trying to find a better balance between allowing autoplay videos to run and blocking them altogether.

In addition to the rules Google has about muted videos and the considerations it makes concerning previous media engagement, Google will also allow autoplay video through on sites users have added to their homepages. Assuming none of those prerequisites have been met, then autoplay videos will not be allowed to run and users will be able to enjoy their browsing sessions in piece.

Google has also released new guidelines for web developers. In those guidelines, it recommends that developers use autoplay sparingly, noting that while they can be an effective tool for engagement, you also run the risk of alienating users by playing audio they don't want to hear and eating into their data and battery life. It also recommends that developers who do use autoplay videos consider muting them by default and letting users choose when to unmute.

Of course, if you find that too many autoplay videos are getting through, you'll also have the option of muting a website entirely. That feature is coming up in Chrome 63, and while it means that autoplay videos may still eat data, you at least won't have to be bothered by whatever audio comes along with them. Chrome 63 will enter stable release next month, while the stable release of Chrome 64 isn't expected to launch until January 2018.