Chrome 64 and Safari 11 plan to punish misuse of Autoplay for video and audio on short term. What kind of misuse do they actually mean?
The advertising industry has to fight constantly against our ability to ignore banners, text ads etc. So, they seek new ways to get their messages across and some of those, in my humble opinion, are quite desperate attempts, for example:
We are more and more confronted with it; annoying advertising campaigns with video and audio that auto-play as soon as a web page is loaded. You suddenly hear an oily voice cackling away, or loud explosions and rattling gunfire whilst you try to read an article. Especially video game ads can be seriously distracting. Sometimes, the video is imposed partly over the content so that you can’t get around it.
At other times it is hidden below the fold. Even worse, some of them repeat over and over again until you stop them manually (if possible). This is clearly a misuse of the Autoplay feature and due to that widespread misuse, changes are coming. Not surprisingly, Google (owner of the Chrome browser) is one of the first to act.
Chrome and Safari, Autoplay policies against misuse
Both browser owners seek to end bad Autoplay practices by implementing behavioural policies that will have a serious impact on the advertising industry and content providers. This usually happens when policies are in the make to curb misuse. Remember pop-up windows? It was such a wonderful feature, yet so badly misused by money grabbing opportunists that it was declared bad practice by the web development community.
Same thing with Flash, alas one of the most misused technologies of all times.
The first measure that comes into effect is that it is possible for users to disable Autoplay in the browser. For Chrome, there is also an automated method underway, using a so called Media Engagement Index (MEI) to determine whether automatic disabling of Autoplay is appropriate or not on certain sites.
For instance, news sites showing primarily text articles but having short videos or audios in Autoplay, may find that automatically disabled in the near future.
Here is quite a detailed article on this subject written by Gernot Zwantschko from Bitmovin:
Good use of Autoplay
As we already recommended in previous articles, use Autoplay only when the visitor expects it.
For instance, if a visitor clicks on an item in a list of videos or audios which leads to another page with that particular item, it can be useful if it starts to play automatically. Personally, I don’t use Autoplay at all on any of my sites. I don’t like it on YouTube either, but that is my personal opinion.
Here is a detailed tutorial on best use of Autoplay: The do’s and don’ts of the Autoplay feature
In short, a simple rule of the thumb for site owners:
Just don’t let something play automatically if the visitor doesn’t know upfront there is a video or audio on the page that he/she wants to hear or see.
What if I work with an advertising network?
Advertising networks may feature video ads as described above. In short term, you don’t need to do anything, since Autoplay most likely will become disabled automatically on your site in that case. But, it is possible in the future that Google starts to fiddle with ranking for sites that display this sort of advertising. This is not written in stone, but Google has a long standing reputation for imposing SEO measures if the industry doesn’t auto-correct itself.
Advertising money is for many site owners a way to generate some income, so that’s not something to throw away, yet you don’t want to piss off your visitors, do you?
So, if you work with advertising networks, check whether video ads with Autoplay are displayed on your site and consider whether it is worth the money to put your reputation in danger. You can always ask the advertising network to exclude this type of ads.