I think we can agree, by and large, that the Internet is a pretty awesome thing. It lets us communicate in ways previously unimaginable, and it has changed the world more in two decades than most inventions have in a century. There was a time where, if you didn’t know something, you had to call a friend or go to the library. Now we google it and get an answer in five seconds. That’s a massive change.
Of course, some of these changes are for the worse. The Internet has likely made us lazier, both physically and mentally. We are less likely to memorize information when a quick search finds anything we need. We are more likely to trust dubious authority, and a whole generation of people are currently growing up in a world where ‘trolling’ is seen as normal, even common behaviour. Strange.
Today, I don’t care about any of that. I want to condemn the Internet for one stupid thing, autoplay videos. Also known as the devil.
You know what I’m talking about. You look for some information somewhere, maybe a news story. You click on the story, you start reading … and then a man’s voice blasts out from nowhere, usually overpowering the music you listen to in the background. You scroll back to the top and find a 40-sec video clip automatically playing to accompany your story. This is literally the worst thing in the world.
First off, let’s talk data. Loading video requires far more data than a simple text page. If I have a slow Internet speed for whatever reason, that slows me down even more. If I’m not on an unlimited data plan, then it potentially costs me money. Heck, it’s only been in the last few years I’ve even had access to an unlimited Internet plan. Thanks, Canadian Internet infrastructure.
That’s a minor quibble. I’ll admit that. Here’s a bigger one: autoplay videos are distracting and do not serve website viewers. What, you think companies are doing things because people want or like it? Haha, of course not. They are doing it because it makes money, and if the Internet has taught us nothing, it’s that the search of a quick dollar quickly ruins everything for everyone.
History lesson: do you remember pop-up ads? These are literally the worst thing the Internet has ever created. You would be doing something, trying to find your cat images or what have you, and suddenly a new window appears! Why, it’s an advertisement for domain names or something. Nobody knows, because nobody ever looks at a pop-up ad because they hate them so much. When you see a pop-up add, the first thing everyone did was close it. Instantly. Screw off, stop wasting my time.
Advertisers got wind of this and started creating pop-up ads in their pop-up ads. One would lead to another, like an endless stream of Russian dolls. God, that was annoying. I, like most people, started to avoid websites that used excessive amount of pop-up ads. Eventually, some brilliant programer created the pop-up blocker, which stopped 95% of these irritating monstrosities. Some still sneaked through, but by and large, the first Internet crisis was over.
It’s worth asking here, if absolutely everyone hated pop-up ads, why did every website use them? As always with advertising, the answer is they are evil. And they worked. You see, sometimes when you went to close the pop-up, you accidentally clicked on the ad, which brought you to the sales page. Most people wouldn’t buy anything, but if even one out of a thousand do, the company makes money. For the original website, every accidental click still counts as a hit, so they profit as well. They can claim people actually click on pop-ups from their site, meaning they can charge more to potentially advertisers. Everyone wins … except for us. Thank the Goddess for adblock technology.
This brings us back to the present and the increasing prevalence of autoplay videos. I’d wager the majority of ‘big’ news websites have adopted this. Certainly the few that I go to, and all of the sports websites. Basically, if you click on a story, you will get a video nine times out of ten. This is infuriating.
I used to really like TSN.ca. That is Canada’s best sports channel, or at least it was. It’s hard to tell this day and age. The website used to be pretty good, but it has fallen down this autoplay hole. If you click on virtually any story, even the smallest ones, I get greeted by a video. Listen, no offence, but I don’t want to hear your voice or your expert analysis. I just wanted to know the score of last night’s game. I don’t need a video for that.
Same thing, Weather Network. I want to know if it’s going to be sunny this weekend. I don’t need a video for that. Hell, your video is two minutes long. I can just look at the chart at the bottom of the page and find my answer in two seconds. I don’t need a video.
Same thing, literally every news site. What’s that? Donald Trump said something outrageous? Colour me shocked. If I care, I can read it. If I don’t, I won’t. DON’T DEPRIVE ME OF THIS CHOICE BY AUTOPLAYING YOUR CLIP AS SOON AS I ENTER! Is this that hard to grasp?
Here’s a question: imagine you were searching for some information. Let’s say you wanted to know why roosters crow at sunrise. Okay, go to google, search for that. You get your results. First is a Wikipedia article. Second in a Youtube video. One involves a quick scan and some reading, the other is 90sec of watching. Which do you click on?
I would pick the article, but here’s the thing: THERE IS NO WRONG CHOICE! You want to watch the video instead? Cool, all the power to you. I’ll read, you watch, we’re both happy. Do you know why this works? Because you wanted to watch the video, and so you clicked on the video. That’s a pretty simple concept, really. You want something, you click on it.
That’s the problem with autoplay videos. They don’t give you this choice. They simply give you something, and in my case, something I don’t want. Something I almost never want. I can read faster than you can talk. I can save a lot of time by not watching your stupid videos.
Nobody likes autoplay videos, but not everyone hates them. Some people are simply indifferent. I personally find them the current scourge of the Internet. By and large, they don’t help people. Like pop-ups, they are used for advertising purposes. Every autoplay video counts as an extra hit, and do you know what proceeds most autoplay videos? An unpausable, unskippable ad.
TSN.ca is the absolute worst for this. I’ve stopped going there, but back when I still did, every story had an autoplay video, and it started with an ad for something I didn’t care about, usually trucks. I can’t stop it, I can’t even mute it. I have to wait the stupid 30sec until the actual video clip loads so I can stop it. Or, more likely, I simply close the page. Good job, TSN. You got your ad in, you got your hit, but you lost your customer.
I despise these, and I know some others that do as well, but by and large that’s where the Internet is going. Autoplay videos, automatic ads. It’s disgusting. I’ve seen a few autoplay blockers, similar to ad blockers, but they don’t work 100% yet. One I tried stopped GIFs as well, which I don’t want, and another had some wonky issues with YouTube. As autoplay videos become more ubiquitous, and likely more obnoxious, an answer will appear. Some programmer will come up with the perfect solution, and everyone will be happy until the next stupid thing comes along.
Autoplay videos are the devil. If I ever see another one it’s too soon.