THE MOZILLA FOUNDATION'S quest to rid the internet of everything annoying has added another arrow to its quiver of whimsy.
The next version of its Firefox browser will include the ability to completely kill autoplay audio and video on web pages, regardless of the settings for that site.
Firefox 66, which is due before the end of March, will automatically freeze all content played through the HTMLMediaElement API, if the user has actively interacted with it - or, to dumb it down a bit, pressed play.
Android already has a similar facility in Firefox, which will be replaced with this updated one.
The blog post from Chris Pearce, out-of-off-of the Mozilla engineering team, explains: "We know that unsolicited volume can be a great source of distraction and frustration for users of the web. So we are making changes to how Firefox handles playing media with sound. We want to make sure web developers are aware of this new autoplay blocking feature in Firefox."
Auto-muted content will escape the new rules because, well, it's muted anyway, whilst enabling the microphone and camera for a particular site will be treated as presumed consent for autoplay. After all, you want your WebRTC calls to work properly, don't you/
Users still have complete control and there will also be a toggle in the URL bar allowing you to override the block on a site-by-site basis. These are then stored in a personal whitelist for each user.
Mozilla advises developers to add a keyboard event handler and/or touchend event to their code to avoid it being blocked by the browser, or of course, muting autoplay by default, adding an ‘unmute' button to the player.
Web Audio isn't covered by the changes, but Mozilla is actively working towards adding this too, with a further release, sometime before the end of 2019.
The changes echo those made by Google in (coincidentally) Chrome 66, but some of these were rolled back after they borked websites. Hopefully, Mozilla has learned from that particular mistake.
Although it's months away, we already know a big feature of Firefox 69 will be the foxculling of Flash content once and for all. Amen to that. μ
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