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Stop HTML5 videos from autoplaying in Safari

Take back control!


As a user experience designer, I’m always curious about best practices for user-friendly interfaces. So, whether it’s using tabbed navigation at the bottom instead of a hamburger menu, or using 12pt font-size for body text, there’s always some basic methods you can rely on improve your user’s experience.

One practices that’s strongly recommended you DO NOT follow is autoplaying videos on page load. It’s a user-hostile, business-friendly practice whose sole purpose is to increase views in the attempt to capture user attention. What usually happens, though, is users are annoyed by videos that play without their permission – eating precious bandwidth and taking away attention from their main goal.

If you are deeply annoyed by autoplaying videos, and frequent a website that has them, you may want to disable videos from autoplaying. This particular guide is specific to Safari 10 on macOS. We will be covering guides for other browsers on other operating systems soon.

Disabling autoplay videos in Safari 10

First things first: this guide works on Safari 10. We cannot confirm if it works on older versions of Safari or on older versions of macOS, even. We tested this on Safari 10 on macOS Sierra.

Let’s get started.

enable-debug-menu-in-safari

Launch the Terminal app and run the following command to enable a ‘Debug’ menu in Safari:

defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeInternalDebugMenu 1

Now restart Safari to see the Debug menu. It is the last option in the menubar. Click on Debug > Media Flags > Video Needs User Action. Also enable ‘Allow Main Content to Autoplay’ from the same menu.

disable-html5-autoplay-safari

Video Needs User Action tells Safari to only play a video after you interact with it. The second option – Allow Main Content to Autoplay – tells Safari to let the video autoplay if it is the main piece of content on a page like on YouTube, Vimeo or any other video streaming website.

This isn’t a perfectly working solution, but it’ll work in most cases.

I personally will not be using this option, as autoplay hasn’t bugged me a lot. I’ve only seen it on CNET.com which I don’t visit regularly. No other website that I frequently visit pushes autoplay videos.

Thanks to redditor DamnableNook for sharing this tip.