Microsoft Edge may have found another way to live up to its name and get an edge over Google Chrome. A newly revealed change to the browser shows that Microsoft is considering taking a stand against the worst part of the internet: those annoying videos that automatically play on websites. You know, those clips that nobody ever asked for, that make the proverbial record needle in your brain scratch when they start playing out of nowhere?
This news comes from Techdows (opens in new tab), which notes a change in the Canary (read: pre-beta) build of Chromium-based Edge. Edge has two settings under Media Autoplay: Allow and Limit, and the new version of the browser shows that the latter is now the default. To try it for yourself, make sure you're on Edge build 91.0.841.0 or higher.
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Limit, as you may have surmised, is not the same as "block." There was a Block option, but it is now locked behind a flag you must first enable. And it apparently never actually worked right. That said, this may just be a test. Beta versions of products often just show what a company is thinking about doing, not what it will do in the long run.
That said, there's no reason for Edge to not get more serious about auto-play. If Microsoft rolled out an ad campaign trashing Chrome's auto-playing videos, it would probably be the biggest moment in its current browser's short history.
Meanwhile, as Chrome users know from their daily experiences using Google's web browser, that software offers no such default. Maybe this is because Google is nothing if not a company based in online advertising. Nobody can say for sure, as Google itself has not given a reason.
This is (apparently) the latest in a series of efforts by Microsoft to peck at Chrome's near-monopoly in the browser market. Recently, Edge added vertical tabs for more economic use of screen space, and its own password manager too.
That said, Edge currently only has 3.45% of the worldwide browser market (according to statcounter (opens in new tab)) — while Chrome has 64.15%. Or to put it another way, Chrome has 18.59 times as much of a wedge of the market as Edge. That's a lot of ground to make up.
I'm glad browsers are tackling this - and kudos to the Edge team - but I really wish website managers would take more ownership for being a part of the problem. I understand the marketing impulse, and I'm certain it generates engagement, but its utterly exhausting as a user to be in a constant state of whack a mole with a content producer you normally would be interested to read and engage with.
Microsoft may find that alienating advertisers could cut both ways. I hate all the nonstop ads with a passion. But somehow I suspect that making it easier to block them won't work in the favor of a behemoth target like Microsoft. The people who make it possible for those ads to be placed on their Web pages need to be given an incentive to manage themselves.