Autoplay is still bad for all users

Just over three years ago I wrote an article called Autoplay is bad for all users. It was written a few months after WCAG 2 became a formal recommendation but before HTML5, particular the video element, had really gone into mass production.

Much, if not all, of that article still holds true today but there are a couple of points to add to it.

HTML5 Video

The new HTML5 specification includes the autoplay attribute along with the following provisions:

Authors are urged to use the autoplay attribute rather than using script to trigger automatic playback, as this allows the user to override the automatic playback when it is not desired, e.g. when using a screen reader.

HTML living standard – The video tag

This is the one advantage to autoplay being included in the spec. If authors must automatically play video this provides a relatively easy way for the user to disable that functionality.

Authors are also encouraged to consider not using the automatic playback behavior at all, and instead to let the user agent wait for the user to start playback explicitly.

HTML living standard – The video tag

This is great! However, in the spec it isn’t a separate guideline so I don’t imagine it will be seen by the majority.

Apple and autoplay

Apple has made the decision to disable the automatic playing of video on iOS devices, through both script and attribute implementations:

In Safari on iOS (for all devices, including iPad), where the user may be on a cellular network and be charged per data unit, preload and autoplay are disabled. No data is loaded until the user initiates it.

Safari HTML5 audio and video guide

And:

…autoplay is disabled to prevent unsolicited cellular download.

Safari HTML5 audio and video guide

Autoplay on mobile devices

Apple aren’t the only company to make the decision to disable automatic playing of video, as far as I can tell, all of the most modern mobile devices ignore the autoplay attribute which can only be a step in the right direction for accessibility.

Autoplay advice

To summarise, I’ll repeat the conclusion from my previous post: