Imagine that when you are silently browsing around, all of a sudden loud music and dialogues start blasting out of nowhere. How annoying would it be? It is one of the modern web’s most annoying features and thanks to an embedded video that has decided to start playing videos without any intimation to you.
The backstory here is that, for years, many sites have used additional plug-in software like ‘Adobe Flash’ to show videos, and most web browsers had settings to stop the plug-in software from automatically playing the clips when the page loaded. However, most of the today’s browsers are switching from the older Adobe Flash technology to the newer HTML5 (a language for creating web pages that embed the clips in the page) format to display ads, videos, and other types of content that will play regardless of your Flash settings. Often they will start playing automatically when the page loads.
Fortunately, browsers have made it easy to mute sites on individual tabs that autoplay video or audio content. If you are tired of opening a new web page and being greeted by a loud, obnoxious auto playing videos and simply want to put a stop to it, these tools can help you.
For Google Chrome
Extensions such as ‘Disable HTML5 Autoplay’ can help in Chrome. Once you install and enable this extension, it prevents the audio and video clips on web pages from playing automatically. The video will load but will not begin playing, giving you the option of watching it or not. You can easily turn on / turn off the extension whenever needed from its icon in the Chrome toolbar.
For those who want to enable audio and video autoplay on certain pages or websites, the extension comes with a handy ‘Mode Rules List’ that lets you do so. Right-click the extension’s button in your browser to bring up a context menu. From this menu, you can whitelist and blacklist sites.
You can get the extension ‘Disable HTML5 Autoplay’ from the Chrome Web Store here.
‘Silent Site Sound Blocker’ also gives you control over audio in all your browser tabs. Once you install the extension, all tabs are automatically muted. Then, right-click the extension’s button in your browser to bring up a context menu. From this menu, you can whitelist and blacklist sites, and you can temporarily unmute sites by clicking ‘Allow this time only.’
When you open a new site that is playing sound, a popup will appear prompting you to choose from four ways you can handle the audio: always allow, allow once, reject once, and never allow. You can also disable this prompt if you prefer not to see it every time you load a site.
The extension also has several modes, allowing you to quickly and easily adjust how your browser handles sound without having to disable it at any time. These modes are:
- Allow whitelisted only
- Block blacklisted only
- Silence all sites
- Allow all sites
Going into the extension’s options allows you to easily add and remove sites that have been whitelisted or blacklisted.
You can get the extension ‘Silent Site Sound Blocker’ from the Chrome Web Store here.
The Chrome extension ‘MuteTab’ also gives you control over what sounds come out of your Chrome browser. MuteTab makes it easy to track down which tab is being noisy (when multiple tabs are being open) and lets you mute them. You can also set the extension to mute all tabs, background tabs, or incognito tabs by default.
You can also block some auto-play video and audio in Chrome by using its built-in settings:
- Enter “chrome://chrome/settings/content” into the URL bar.
- Scroll down to the Flash heading and set it to “Let me choose when to run plugin content.”
- Scroll further down to ‘Unsandboxed Plugin Access’ and set it to: “Ask when a site wants to use a plugin to access your computer.”
You can get the extension ‘MuteTab’ from the Chrome Web Store here.
For Mozilla Firefox
There are no plugins to install for Firefox, as you can easily disable autoplay of audio and video right in the browser’s settings. There is an option built into Firefox itself to prevent auto-playing videos. But it takes some digging to find. Here’s how you can do it:
- First, type “about:config” into the URL bar and hit Enter.
- If you get a warning message about “This might void your warranty!” continue on.
- Now, type “autoplay” into the search box.
- This will bring up a preference named “media.autoplay.enabled.” Double-click it to disable it.
The Firefox add-on ‘Mute Sites by Default’ has the most important feature: the ability to whitelist. Once you install the add-on, there’s nothing you have to do. All sites will be automatically muted.
You can whitelist sites by going to your Firefox add-ons, clicking ‘Extensions’ and then find ‘Mute Sites by Default’ in your list of add-ons. Now, click ‘Options’ and you can start to enter whitelisted sites one by one.
You can get the add-on ‘Mute Sites by Default’ from here.
On Safari, this option is actually a native feature for those running OS X El Capitan.
- Simply open a new tab and click the blue speaker icon in the address bar to mute all tabs playing sound.
- To unmute your tabs, simply click the same icon again.
- To unmute individual tabs, you can click the speaker icon on that tab. You will have to repeat this step every time you restart Safari.
With Opera, to mute sound in all open tabs, right-click on any tab and click ‘Mute other tabs.’ You can then selectively unmute tabs when you need to, or go back to the original tab and click Unmute other tabs.
There is some disadvantage to this method. Any tabs you open after the fact will not be muted, and you will have to repeat this method every time you restart Opera.
A version of the ‘Disable HMTL5 Autoplay’ extension is also available for those using the Opera browser. Download the extension and you are good to go!