Don’t you sometimes just miss the simpler days of the internet? You know, when search engines were just that and every other website did not pester you with pop-ups, pop-unders and autoplaying videos? I do, but those days are surely long gone and are certainly not coming back.
I’m careful in my wording by using sometimes because there are times when all these annoyances are “justified”, or at least the underlying technologies that make them possible. Such is the case with HTML5 Video.
TL;DR: Jump to solution or keep on reading my semi-rant
Compared to flash video, it’s more secure, lightweight, and thus suitable for mobile devices, and not forgetting it doesn’t need plugins — just browser support. As such, it’s easier than ever for publishers to embed video content on their sites and have it indexed by search engines.
All these benefits however come at a cost for end users. Of particular is the whole issue of autoplaying videos. Unlike text content which one can easily skip over, videos are not as easy to ignore once they start playing, especially if they don’t start muted.
Secondly, videos can keep playing (or downloading) in the background without user consent. This not only wastes system resources, but also bandwidth in the event you have no use for the video.
To some publishers, as I can attest to, this is sometimes a necessary evil. For instance, content such as ads through which most publishers like myself are able to monetize our content, is not within our explicit control. A good example is when Google’s Ad network decides to display a video ad in place of an image or text ad.
In the past few years since the coming of this plague, we have had to settle for a game of cat and mouse as blocking plugins have tried futilely try to tame this beast. Usually, they will work for some time, only for them to get outdated as the browsers waltz about their rapid release cycles and forced updates.
Most of these plugins are geared towards disabling autoplaying videos, and this works for the most part. What most of them are however unable to do is disable the auto-download of videos.
Typically, as is the case with YouTube, the autoplay will be blocked, however if you look at the seek bar you’ll notice the player is downloading the video. This is in spite of the fact that you may not end up playing the video.
If you have unlimited internet, this may not be much of an issue. However, for those who like me mostly use metered networks, this behavior is completely unwarranted.
I’ve tried my fair share of blocking plugins, and I have just had about it with this game. So, for some peace of mind, I have decided to go for the nuclear option — disable the video support natively within the browser, in this case, Firefox.
Should I want to watch a video, I have another Firefox installation on standby just for that. I rarely do, but that should suffice whenever the need arises.
Disable Video Playing in Firefox
For that reason, I chose to disable the video formats / codecs. To do that, go to Firefox’s Advanced Preferences by loading about:config then toggle all the following options to false:
Toggle the following to false if you also need to disable all audio playing:
I’m sure I may have missed some options but as per my tests so far, the above options effectively block all videos from loading or playing on all the major video sharing sites — YouTube, DailyMotion, Vimeo etc.
Say goodbye to video auto-download and autoplay. In some cases you won’t even see the video player or thumbnail unless if it’s lazy loaded (i.e. the thumbnail is just a dummy that is used to trigger the loading of the player).
In the case of YouTube, the page will load, but the player will return an error that your browser cannot play the video.
You can however still browse the descriptions, comments and related videos normally.
Auto-previews when you hover on video thumbnails with likewise not work. However, you can still preview manually by clicking on the thumb when the pointer turns into a magnifier.
Additionally, this will also block the thumbnail video previews on Google search (and other sites) now that their results (i.e. for some keywords) return as much as a half page of video results you didn’t ask for. Makes one wonder what’s the point of the video search tab.
Lastly, you can always unblock the videos by toggling the quoted options back to true.