Chrome Loves Auto-play, but Do Users?

I’ve encountered many, many examples that:

  1. in some cases, users don’t want Chrome to auto-play any videos – even muted ones (mostly because sites abuse the privilege by autoplaying unrelated overlay videos), and
  2. users incorrectly think Chrome’s chrome://flags/#autoplay-policy flag disables auto-playing videos, when it only affects auto-playing videos that aren’t muted

Unfortunately, as of this post, Chrome’s policy is that “Muted autoplay is always allowed.”

I’ve responded a few times on Hacker News to clarify the current behavior (see above links). The confusion and the unmet demand for disabling autoplay entirely, at least for certain domains, led me to tweet inviting the Chrome product management team to respond, then when they didn’t, to comment on the Chromium bug tracker.

Google has never explained nor substantiated its decisions to allow muted autoplay by default, and not let users change that policy, at least globally and perhaps on a per-site basis. Since Google has a clear conflict of interest, both decisions justify more transparency than they’ve been given.

I don’t have any data about user preferences for muted auto-play. I do know that no one likes the current behavior and that Chrome has per-domain controls for far less frequently used – and less polarizing – features, like whether to clear cookies on exit.

Here’s my Chromium bug tracker comment:


Anyone have some data that substantiates the theory that users want muted videos to autoplay by default (rather than, say, on a per-domain basis like cookie retention and “Clear cookies on exit” settings)?

It’s entirely anecdotal (that’s why I’m asking for data…), but everyone I know can’t stand muted autoplay. Google didn’t provide any reasoning or substantiation why “Muted autoplay is always allowed” in https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2017/09/autoplay-policy-changes. Advertisers and consumer-facing sites abuse that privilege by autoplaying muted unrelated videos.

Clearly some users want autoplay for some domains. My question is whether at least a meaningful percentage of users would prefer to disable autoplay entirely, even for muted videos, at least for some domains.

Related discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17036803#17037890