Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Video embedded on web pages will sometimes begin to download, or even begin to play, before you hit play. We'll look at one inelegant solution.

It seems more and more websites are now including a video in their page that starts downloading and I can't stop it without leaving that page. How can I prevent automatic video downloads and stay on that page?

The short answer is that you can't. At least not without some drastic measures.

I have a few videos on my site that fall into this category, and I need to clean them up. I spent some time recently looking for a player that would start downloading only when you hit "play".

But that's just me, on my web site.

Web video's been around a while, but it's only recently taken off in immense popularity in the last year or two. Since it's still so new, web site designers and implementers are still figuring out what works and what doesn't which means making mistakes along the way.

There are many, many different players that web site owners can use to embed video on their sites. The most common you've probably seen is the one that YouTube uses. It behaves as you and I want: it shows you that there is a video, but nothing is downloaded until you push play.

Unfortunately, a lot of web site owners don't do it that way. Some might feel that their video is so important that it must begin playing the instant you hit the play button. The only way that can happen is if it's already started downloading.

Even worse are those sites that insist on auto-playing video. They must feel that their video is SO important that it should start playing as soon as you visit the page. Auto-play video (and audio) is, in my opinion, a huge mistake. I've been startled too many times by sudden sound that I wasn't expecting. I can only imagine how parents of small formerly-sleeping children might feel about the sudden unrequested explosion of noise.

The problem is that there's little that can be done, at least directly. Certainly you can, and should, let the web site owners know. You can also "vote with your feet" and not return if you don't like the way a web site behaves. But that's unfortunate, and can prevent you from visiting sites you might otherwise enjoy.

One solution is, of all things, the NoScript plugin for FireFox.

Almost all the common video players are also blocked by NoScript. As a result, until you explicitly allow a site using NoScript, the players won't even show. Not showing means they can't download, and of course they can't auto play.

Yes, it requires switching to FireFox, and yes, it's a backhanded solution to a problem that really should be dealt with more correctly by website owners, but it works.

Now I need to go fix a few videos myself...

Article C3500 - September 13, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

September 13, 2008 7:44 AM

Firefox + NoScript + FlashBlock

Mark , Grater Washington D.C. area
September 14, 2008 1:54 PM

Another useful add-on for Firefox is Flashblock. I'm not sure if all of the auto play videos are related to Flash player, but many are, and Flashblock gives you total and reasonably easy control over flash. It also stops the use of Flash in a lot of banners etc. Seems to help with overall browser stability too as it keeps Flash from eating up system resources...

September 15, 2008 5:46 AM

The "sleeping children" problem is why I do most of my computer work with the speakers off. If there is something I want to hear and/or see, then I turn them on for just that video.

And it saves power! LoL

September 16, 2008 7:31 AM

There's another kind of video player out there I've run into that causes Firefox to hang up. The video starts playing so I immediately quit Firefox. It doesn't quit. The video does quit but I have to Ctrl+Alt+Del to get Firefox to clean itself up. Maybe the problem is with Firefox -- don't know.

September 16, 2008 5:34 PM

I'd recommend Flashblock for Firefox, too.

September 16, 2008 11:22 PM

flashblock is the best

October 2, 2008 6:44 PM

This can be easily solved with an Add-on in Firefox named Stop Autoplay.

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