Firefox, the leading and popular web-browser has added a much-needed feature that stops multimedia content from loading and playing without user consent. Starting with Firefox version 69, users have explicit control over auto-loading audio and video that even leading websites are known to deploy. Incidentally, the feature was introduced in Firefox version 67 itself. However, it currently lacks tighter control over multimedia content that often loads without the user initiating playback voluntarily.
Firefox’s currently stable version 67 has an important feature that was added by Mozilla. It started blocking by default all media with the sound that plays automatically. However, to let the user block video content including Audio, Mozilla added a new setting “Block Audio and Video” to Autoplay Settings in Firefox Nightly 69. Up until the recent version of Firefox, the Autoplay settings were rather limited. Taking advantage of the same, even popular websites, including leading news websites often self-initiated playback of their own multimedia content. Granted, the news websites often muted the video, but the video still continued to play. If that’s not enough, once the video ended, either the next video began or the website reloaded to load another video. Needless to add, this was not only distracting but resulted in the unnecessary consumption of data.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter do have clear settings that grant the user control over auto-loading and auto-playing videos. With Firefox Nightly version 69, the Mozilla-owned browser is granting the same to users who visit websites with auto-playing content. Firefox now has a setting to stop the video from playing automatically in the browser.
— Sam Bowne (@sambowne) June 16, 2019
The new setting is titled “Block Audio and Video”. Incidentally, users of the stable version of Firefox, which currently sits on version 67, will not see the setting. Mozilla has introduced the setting in version 69. Needless to add, Firefox version 69 is classified as ‘Nightly’. This essentially means Mozilla has tested the feature and is offering the same as a public beta before rolling out to the stable version of Firefox. It is not immediately clear exactly when Firefox’s stable version will get the feature.
Users who wish to test out the feature must install Firefox Nightly 69. Click on Firefox menu > Options > Privacy and Security > Permissions. Select Settings for Autoplay and choose “Block Audio and Video” as the setting “Default for all websites”. Interestingly, several users want the content to auto-play. Firefox clearly understands the need for adding exceptions. Hence, users can also “Allow audio and video” to autoplay on all websites such as Netflix using the first new setting. Users can use a conveniently placed search bar to add exceptions.
How Will Users Know That Firefox Is Blocking Multimedia Content From Auto-Loading And Autoplaying?
Whenever Firefox will block media with sound on a website, an icon will appear in the address bar. This is a quick visual indicator that the website contains auto-playing content that was intentionally prevented from loading. Clicking on the icon will open Control Center where users can block audio or “Audio and Video” or allow Audio and Video.
Adding granular control over auto-loading and auto-playing multimedia content has been a long-standing request from Firefox web browser users. While several complained about the visual distraction, others noted that the content needlessly ate up data. Users on metered connections like mobile data, often resorted to extreme measures like script-blocking to prevent videos from auto-playing. With this feature, users can be assured that no website, without explicit approval, will auto-load and auto-play multimedia content.
Firefox and several other browsers could soon benefit from Google’s decision to revise how its ad-blocking APIs work on Google Chrome browser. It is now apparent that should Google dilute the efficacy of the APIs that blocked ads before they loaded, users could quickly adopt other browsers. Incidentally, Microsoft’s Edge shifted base and adopted Google’s Chromium, and could be impacted by the decision. However, Firefox has managed to stay independent and could retain powerful ad-blockers.