Click-to-play plug-ins allowed you to prevent video plug-ins from starting as soon as you load a web page, but more and more websites are moving to HTML5 video. Thankfully, it’s still possible to prevent autoplay in many browsers.
The tricks below will also prevent HTML5 audio from automatically playing. Any websites that use the <audio> and <video> tags to play back multimedia will be affected. Unfortunately, only some web browsers allow you to do this.
Disabling automatic playback just pauses the video; it doesn’t prevent it from loading. Depending on how the video is set to load on the page, your browser may automatically download the entire video or just begin buffering part of it, even if you haven’t loaded it yet. This won’t prevent media from downloading entirely, as click-to-play did for Flash content.
In other words, if you’d like to use this trick to save bandwidth, it won’t help much.
Chrome doesn’t have this feature built-in. It’s possible to prevent many HTML5 videos on the web from automatically playing by installing the Stop YouTube HTML5 AutoPlay browser extension from the Chrome Web Store. Despite its name, this should work with all websites — not just YouTube. Here’s the developer’s website.
If this extension doesn’t seem to work for some reason, you may want to try the Disable HTML5 Autoplay extension. This one doesn’t have as many users, but promises to disable autoplay in all situations — including blocking scripts from automatically playing videos and parsing new HTML5 videos as they’re dynamically loaded on web pages. Of course, this same add-on will also work in Chromium.
To Mozilla’s credit, Firefox actually contains a preference that allows you to control whether HTML5 videos on web pages automatically play or not. However, like many Firefox preferences, this one is buried deep in about:config where you’d otherwise never find it.
Mozilla improved this preference in Firefox 41, making it more powerful. When you disable autoplay of HTML5 media, scripts running on the current web page won’t be able to start media unless you’re interacting with it. A script running in the background can’t just instruct the video to play without your permission.
To change this setting, plug about:config into Firefox’s address bar and press Enter. Agree to the warning and then type “autoplay” into the search box. You’ll see a preference named “media.autoplay.enabled”, which will be set to True. Double-click that preference and it will change to False.
Opera is a Chromium-based browser, just like Google Chrome, and supports the same browser extensions. The same Disable HTML5 Autoplay extension you can use on Chrome is also available for Opera.
It doesn’t seem possible to do this on Apple’s Safari web browser. Safari has no built-in preference for controlling this, and there are no browser extensions like the ones available for Chrome and Chromium-based web browsers to prevent this from happening. A browser extension could theoretically add this feature to Safari, if someone were to create one.
This isn’t built into Microsoft Edge, so it’s just not possible — not even in theory. Microsoft’s new Edge browser doesn’t yet support add-ons, so there’s no way to install a third-party extension to get this feature. It will probably be possible with a similar browser extension to the one Chrome uses after Edge gains support for these.
This doesn’t seem possible in Internet Explorer, either. Internet Explorer doesn’t have this option built in, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any browser add-on that does this. This isn’t surprising, as browser extensions have always been the big way Microsoft’s web browser is behind its competitors.
Hopefully, browsers will gain more support for controlling this as HTML5 video and audio become increasingly widespread.
Mozilla has already built actual controls for this into Firefox and has improved them. This could be an option on Firefox’s normal options page in the future.