It is generally presumed that people who look for information on the Web want it in video form. For example, if you go to the HathiTrust Digital Library, which is a collection of books, you will find instructions on the front page for building your own personal collection of books at HathiTrust. The instructions are given in the form of a YouTube video.

Dr. Boli does not like information presented in video form. What he especially dislikes is running across a Web page that is so certain he wants his information in video form that it immediately starts playing a video at him without his permission. And the very worst offenders are the pages that do have information that is meant to be read, but overwhelm it with dancing animations and videos that make it impossible to keep our eyes on the text. For example, the current front page of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh site, which fills the screen with a confused cacophony of moving images to inform us that we can get a printed program guide if we like. Can anyone think of a better way to inform readers of the availability of printed schedules of library programs than with a video showing library patrons dancing around with the printed guide and not reading it?

That was the site that finally sent Dr. Boli off on a quest for some way to kill the moving images. If you use Firefox, there is a simple setting to disable autoplay. If you use Chrome or Edge, there is no such setting. There used to be years ago, but it was taken away, on the grounds (we suppose) that users were abusing it by disabling autoplay, which is a rotten thing to do. Advertisers pay good money to Google to place animated ads all over the Web, and Google does not fund the Chromium project just to flush that money down the sewer. What was that famously aspirational Google slogan again? “Let’s be evil”? Something like that.

Fortunately, there are browser extensions that will accomplish the same thing. But there is not yet a browser extension that does exactly what Dr. Boli would like. The one he uses right now stops videos from automatically playing without his permission, which is good as far as it goes. What Dr. Boli would really like, however, is an extension that would allow him to click on any video or animation that started by itself, and with that click simultaneously kill the movement on the page and deliver a harmless but painful electric shock to the Web designer who thought the autoplaying video was a good idea. Dr. Boli is prepared to reward a programmer who can create such an extension with his patronage. Note that, if the “harmless” part of the specifications proves impossible to implement, Dr. Boli is still likely to be generous.


  1. Belfry Bat says:

    There may be precedent for such a tool, in the thing known as Stuxnet. However, in the present day, I imagine such an extension would attract the attention of the FCC, IEEE, FBI, CIA, DHS, USSF and, who knows, perhaps even the FDA and EPA. And not all of them with the kind of attention we really want to be subject to! Some things, if we want them done, we must do them ourselves in person, or else judge that we really don’t sufficiently desire the end to desire the means.

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