Mozilla has announced that the upcoming version of its Firefox browser, Firefox 66, will automatically mute any audio and video that plays automatically unless users specifically click on the “play” button.
In an official blog post announcing the move, Mozilla’s Chris Pearce defined “autoplay” as any playback that occurs before users have interacted with a page through a mouse click, touch event, or printable key press; all of these playbacks will be blocked on Firefox 66. However, muted autoplay will be permitted. Although this will still use up people’s bandwidth, it will eliminate the disruption of unexpected sound.
Mozilla plans to roll out the new Firefox 66 with default audible autoplay blocking on March 19.
For those cases where users do want audio and video to automatically play, Firefox for Desktop will give them the option to change the permission from “block” to “allow” on specific sites in a pop-up that will appear in the Firefox URL bar any time the browser blocks an autoplaying audio or video clip. This will allow users to build up a whitelist of the sites they trust to start playing audibly automatically.
An exception will be made, however, for sites wherein users permit their browser to access their microphone and camera. For example, sites for video and audio conferences that use web technology like WebRTC will be exempted. This allows users to participate in web-based calls without having to take any additional steps.
Other browsers already offer similar features
Last year, Google debuted a similar feature in its Chrome browser. Its approach is more personalized, using a person’s browsing history to determine the sites they would potentially want blocked rather than issuing a blanket ban. Microsoft’s Edge browser also has a feature that allows users to choose whether to allow, limit or block autoplay.
The move by Firefox is aimed at reducing distractions and enhancing the overall user experience. May people have expressed annoyance at videos that start playing unexpectedly, particularly in work environments.
The browser is constantly including new features to boost user-friendliness. A recent update to Firefox, Firefox 65, gave users more control over trackers. Firefox already allowed users to block trackers in private windows or at all times, but they have now placed the feature more prominently with better explanations, and they added a custom mode to give people even more control over when they are willing to be tracked.