Backers Decide: Autoplay or Not?

30 June 2015 | 68 Comments

Last week I was in the middle of a teleconference when someone brought up a Kickstarter project. I pulled up Kickstarter, searched for the project, and opened the page.

Instantly, loud music blared out of my speakers. Damn autoplay. I paused the video and returned to the teleconference, hoping no one else had heard the disturbance. (Note: Apparently for some people, the sound is automatically muted unless they mouse over the video. That is not my experience, though.)

That’s right–if you haven’t noticed, Kickstarter videos now automatically start playing when you load an active project page. Maybe this was an intentional choice made after years of market research. Or maybe an intern accidentally clicked the wrong button and no one noticed. We’ll never know.

I’m biased–I loathe autoplay. When I’m ready to watch a video, I’ll click play. However, in an effort to keep this constructive, I’ve tried to create a pros/cons list.

After you read the list, I’d love to get your feedback on the poll and in the comments. I’ll send the poll data to Kickstarter in a few days.

Pros:

  • More people will watch project videos.
  • Maybe some people like autoplay?

Cons:

  • It’s super annoying.
  • If you work in an office, you’re now less likely to visit Kickstarter during the day because everyone can hear when you do.
  • The primary project image–which, by Kickstarter’s own admission, is very important–is now displayed for less than a second before the video starts playing.
  • Something that should be in the user’s control is now out of their control.
  • Project pages can now take significantly longer to load on slower computers or mobile devices, eating up data plans. (Thanks to Travis for pointing this out.)
  • When a creator is successfully engaging backers, those backers are likely to return to the project page time after time. Autoplay hurts that experience because backers only need to watch the video the first time they visit a page, not every time. (Thanks to Jacob for this insight.)
  • Did I mention it’s super annoying? This is coming from someone who loves Kickstarter. Instead of getting an endorphin burst when I load a Kickstarter page, I now cringe a little bit. Every time.

I’d love to hear what you think. Autoplay or not?

UPDATE: Kickstarter now allows backers to turn off the autoplay function in their settings. Click here and you’ll see the option in the far right column at the bottom.

68 Comments on “Backers Decide: Autoplay or Not?

  1. You missed another con I’ve run into: The pages can now take significantly longer to load on slower computers or mobile devices, where you used to be able to simply skip the videos until you had a better computer/connection to use.

  2. I’m firmly in the “no” camp. Or, more accurately, in the “repeatedly hit whomever was responsible with a wet sock until they become reasonable human beings again” camp. :-P

    This change is also awful for those of us who maintain aggregate lists of KS projects, as opening a number of KS projects in a few tabs is now an extremely annoying and noisy venture.

  3. Oh my no. I believe that was a pretty big mistake for Kickstarter. Like you said, if people want to watch a video, then they’ll click play. Any other way is just shoving the video down people’s throat. Also, many times when I load a Kickstarter page, it’s just to see how the campaign is doing and I’ve ALREADY watched the video. No need to watch it twice.

    1. Jacob: That’s another great point. I do the same with KS projects–maybe I watch the video the first time I visit, but if I’m engaged by the campaign, I return to the page a lot (and I do NOT want the video to autoplay when I return to it).

  4. I think the change is awesome. Project videos will get seen more, and makes the pages more interesting. If you haven’t noticed, they have already muted the auto-plays, so you only hear sound if you click on it to play the sound. Yes it WAS very annoying when the sound played automatically – but they’ve fixed that.

    1. Game-o-gami: I loaded several project pages while writing this article, and the sound played on all of them. I think maybe you muted the videos on your system, but I don’t think that’s a global Kickstarter change. And even if it were, I don’t think I’d like it. When I want a video to play, I want to click play (one click) and both see the video and hear it, not have to unmute it first.

      1. Interesting. I didn’t change any “settings” in my profile. I wonder if you mute a video once, Kickstarter then saves that as your preference for all future video plays? I had heard from others that videos were also playing muted for them.
        Could this be a browser thing? I’m running Chrome. Or maybe Kickstarter is re-configuring the auto-mute based on what users do?

    2. In my experience, videos used to autoplay muted, which was more or less tolerable, and then they changed them to have sound, which was hell. I would be very happy if they reverted the latter change, but I have also experienced what Jamey reports.

      Another possibility is that videos only autoplay with sound when using Flash and not when using native HTML5 video, or vice versa, which would explain some people getting sound while some other don’t.

  5. The following has been the consensus of the internet for the 16 or so years I have been on it: Autoplay, be it audio or video, is the spawn of satan. And yet. And yet, websites keep insisting on putting autoplay in. I might be listening to a podcast while browsing your site, for example; stop forcing me to hurridly and then rewind the podcast I’m listening to to get the 15 seconds of entertaining banter between Tom and Eric you just bloody well forced me to miss. What am I missing here? Autoplay is not only anti-consumer, it makes visiting your website less desirable to consumers, so they’re less likely to spend time on it, so why do so many web developers – who are likely to know how annoying it is from their own experience – insist on including it on the website they’re designing. I don’t care if your client requests it – It’s your job to offer your professional opinion that this is a terrible, terrible idea to your client, just like you would if they requested you used comic sans for the body text of the site.

    This isn’t the mid 90s and early 00s anymore. Geocities is dead, and along with it you’ve stopped using frames, (For the most part) you’ve stopped using links that open in new windows instead letting the user decide weather to open in a link in a new tab or the current one and typically where you don’t it’s because it’s an annotation in a video so the mouse doesn’t behave properly for the browser, you’ve stopped using cutesy custom animated icons chasing the cursor via a simple bit of javascript, why are you still using bloody autoplay?

    I’d even apply this to stuff like youtube where watching videos is the entire point – If I’m reading an article that links to a video, or – worse – watching a video and an annotation taking me to a related video is present, I might (and often do) want to open that video in a new tab to queue it up for later. The current youtube implementation forces me to rewind, trying to find the right annotation at the barely remembered timestamp, to get to a linked video. Autoplay is inefficient even when browsing youtube.

  6. (Just tested it – It’s playing sans sound for me. which… Manages to be the worst of both worlds, somehow. Since I have some of the inconvenience of autoplay, but also if I don’t act fast enough I miss some of the information in the video)

  7. Hmmm, it plays without sound for me and when I hover my mouse over the vid screen it offers the option of playing it with sound. And then starts from the beginning…So I’m against autoplay but the way it is right now, isn’t as horrible as your experience was Jamey.

  8. Oh I hate autoplay so much. I browse a lot of KS projects, so i’m frequently going in and out of campaign pages. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to hit stop on every video every single time.

    To address Game-O-Gami’s point, it doesn’t acutally make the videos get seen any more than before. I don’t think people are watching the videos because they are autoplaying. On the contrary, it actually has been making me LESS likely to browse around kickstarter because I don’t want to have to deal with it.

    I even went so far as to email Kickstarter about the autoplay and how to disable it, this was their response:

    “Sorry to hear you’re not a fan of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. There’s currently no way to disable it but I’ll share your note with our team.”

    1. Tony: Actually, the first time I noticed the new autoplay “feature” was when you tweeted about it last week. :) Thanks for contacting Kickstarter about it. I’m hoping they’ll act when they see the data from this poll.

    2. I’m in a similar boat to you. I have a number of tabs open regularly as well. This is a terrible change.

    3. I already submitted a complaint to them about this and got the same response Tony did. I live out in the country and only get 10GB video data, so this is horrific and really screwing with my willingness to explore on KS as thoroughly as I used to. I prefer to look at the KS page to see whether I’m even potentially interested or not, before watching the video. The added point of limiting repeat viewing of a page is very true. Not only am I less inclined to just browse like I used to, but even if I’m interested in a project or currently backing it, I need to really think about the necessity of opening the page before I do so. OMG. I hope they cancel this ASAP! I usually check pretty much every game on BGG’s KS geeklist, and this has really put a clog in the works =(

      And may I ask, is there ANY point to a video auto-playing muted (mine does). I guess the only point is that you see movement, which attracts people’s attention? It seems as soon as you click the unmute, it starts all over, so this is immensely annoying and pointless.

  9. As it seems it is not rolled out worldwide?! Here in germany i don’t have any autoplay… and i am HAPPY about that. I am totally on the NO side.

    1. I’m in Germany and it’s definitely here. I’ve complained about it but received the same cut and paste response as Tony. And the videos are still playing for me today, so Kickstarter hasn’t actually changed this policy.

      I’ll hold out for a little longer, but if they don’t stop this soon I will stop visiting Kickstarter to explore new projects.

  10. You also missed the con: when you restart your browser and had a particular Kickstarter page open (or several) when you closed your browser, the project video just starts blaring and you have to play a quick game of whack-a-mole to stop them all.

  11. I am also in the No camp. One positive feature, however, is that the “Project Video Plays” stat is now a much more accurate figure of how many people have actually looked at your project.

    1. But, now, it’s not an accurate stat for tracking how many people have *watched* the video (which, I would think, is the main thing you want to track).

  12. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I am an old fogey, and really don’t watch video online. Part of it is I do a lot from work, and I tend to multitask. Having to watch a video forces me to stop the reading I was doing and watch something at someone else’s pace. I also read really fast.

    I hate ks updates that are just videos, too. Let me choose how I consume content. Don’t force me.

  13. I can confirm that Chrome on Linux without Flash (ie. using the HTML5 player), with English localization, autoplays with sound. Just had a lovely instance of what Matthew Titelbaum mentions above – reopen about 8 or 9 KS tabs, then enjoy the instant cacophony…

  14. A major downside to this too is if you’re the type that actually browses Kickstarter projects. I will open a project that catches my eye into a new window/tab and keep scrolling. Then I go to each page and now find the videos finished :-\

  15. A small update. I contacted KS to let them know about the poll (and my own opinion), and I got a very similar response to Tony above – “Sorry to hear you’re not a fan of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I’ll be sure to share them with our team.” The first part is exactly the same as in Tony’s reply, so they are probably using that phrase quite a bit ;)

  16. I have noticed that as well (the autoplay videos on Kickstarter)… in my case they play silently, which is still bad because then my computer slows down and I don’t know why at first.

    Consider that not everyone has unlimited data… anybody putting autoplay video or audio content on their site is effectively stealing from people who load up that web page, forcing them to load more content (and in the case of silent autoplay videos, not necessarily even telling them)

    And even for people who DO have unlimited data…that doesn’t make it OK. As a comparison: It’s free to drive on the roads, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to get 100 of your friends in their cars and clog up Broadway.

    Autoplay is the worst. it was awful when FaceBook did it, and now it’s awful that Kickstarter has done it. I hope they listen to you Jamey!

    Oh, and to those who think more people will watch the videos because they automatically play? I do not see any logic to support that at all.

  17. Don’t forget that it is also bad for mobile use. If you’re browsing on a mobile device videos consume a LOT of data and if you’re on mobile broadband that’s pretty expensive and you don’t want it wasted on videos you don’t want or need to watch. Luckily most mobile browsers disable autoplay, but not if you’re on a notebook or other device on mobile broadband.

  18. I am very much not a fan of the change. So much so that I immediately contacted kickstarter. Their response:

    Hi Julius,

    Sorry to hear you’re not a fan of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I’ll be sure to share them with our team. Unfortunately, at this time, there is not a way to turn it off for repeat visits to the page. However, as I mentioned, we are testing this feature and I will be sure to pass your thoughts along to the team here. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

    Best,
    Noah

  19. Julius – what’s the contact info for that Noah, or whoever else is willing to take feedback at Kickstarter?

    I think it would be great if everyone who was against this atrocity were to send their feedback (civil, don’t be a dick) individually so that they get an idea of the magnitude of overwhelming negative response.

    I’m sure a nice letter from someone like Jamey with poll results and everything will be helpful, but it can be easier to brush that 1 email aside than it can an avalanche of comments asking them to please discontinue auto-play!

  20. Firmly in the no camp, sound or not. As a backer, there’s just about zero pros to this. As a creator, I strongly suspect the cons far outweigh the pros. As KS, I also suspect the cons will outweigh the pros – let’s hope they figure that out before it alienates too many backers.

    The least they could do would be to allow the creators to decide if they want autoplay on or not. I suspect it would quickly get turned off on almost all projects, since creators that had it on would get far fewer repeat visits.

  21. Absolutely can’t stand it. Happily, it does auto-mute for me in Chrome, but what’s the point of auto-playing a video that’s muted? I won’t watch it muted, there’s no point, so now any time I open a new Kickstarter page, I automatically click the video to pause it. I shouldn’t have to do that. Is a simple user preference too much to ask? Even Facebook put in a preference to allow users to stop videos autoplaying (despite autoplay being on by default, which again is a bad decision).

    If the videos did autoplay WITH sound all the time, I think I’d give up opening new Kickstarter pages altogether unless I REALLY wanted to see the details of the project.

  22. It’s great to see so many people weighing in about this! I appreciate people reaching out to Kickstarter (in a civil way, as Seth noted), but hopefully this compiled data will have an impact on Kickstarter’s decision as well.

  23. It’s so annoying. I’m used to opening a lot of different pages at once, so now I hear tons of videos starting up. And I don’t want to watch them. I’ve backed over 80 projects and can honestly say I don’t watch the videos. If you can’t convince me in the body text of your project, you telling me your wishes for your project in a video isn’t going to change that. Now I’m being forced to stop the videos all the time, it makes me want to visit projects less. This issue has been around since the dawn of the Internet and people have generally always hated auto play. Who at kickstarter thought this was a good idea?

    1. Or you could also make your header video 10 seconds of you instructing people to watch the video just below, if they would like to watch the project video ;-) Then the ‘auto-play’ will be over just about as quickly as it began…

  24. I emailed KS and got the following response, very similar to what Julius got:

    Willis with Kickstarter Support here. Sorry to hear you’re not a fan of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I’ll be sure to share them with our team.

    Best,
    Willis

    1. (Since I don’t know if I’m going to wind up doing the project I’m musing over at the moment in a couple of years, I haven’t mentioned that I’d consider this sort of anti-feature as a reason to use IndieGoGo for crowdfunding it instead of KS. That’s a hypothetical maybe loss of income for them, me not visiting a project page after hearing about cool artwork style on a game I have no interest in backing and wind up realizing that actually this game looks awesome and I want to back it is actual loss of income to them… And since I’m currently backing such a project, it isn’t a hypothetical – With this anti-feature I wouldn’t have gone on the KS page for the game, I’d have gone onto the BGG gallery, and wouldn’t have gotten enough of an idea of the way the game plays while looking at the art to go “Actually… This game looks all kinds of awesome. Is it EU friendly?” had I looked at the art that way)

  25. I don´t like auto play, that is why I modified my chrome so it doesn’ t autoplay anything, not videos from facebook, not nothing. And yes, the site where I post the reviews has autoplay, but is not my site and I prefer not to say anything about it… shhhhh

    1. ellogan, How did you do that? I have always had my chrome set to not automatically run flash, or whatever that option is… since I don’t have unlimited internet, and this greatly decreases how much data I use. However, this doesn’t stop the KS videos from running…

    2. I downloaded Magic Actions for YouTube and selected the option to stop auto-play. That seems to have worked =) Unless KS happened to end auto-play on just the day I read this comment and started searching for an add-in or extension ;-) So happy to return to my normal KS habits =P

  26. Worst feature ever. I sent them an e-mail complaining about it. I just hope they get enough negative feedback that they remove the feature or allow people to turn it off in settings.

  27. Contacted Noah at Kickstarter again. He explained that they have shifted their testing for auto-play to now always mute the video during auto-play, and are expecting to receive further feedback on this change. If you have an opinion about auto-play with auto-mute, feel free to send them another email. (And maybe update the poll.)

  28. Well looks like 97% of us hate autoplay according to the poll. It’s AWFUL! I agree with the commenter above who called it “The Spawn of Satan”. I use a tab organizer with Chrome to open many tabs at once and it screws everything up with the videos autoplaying (esp with sound – it’s a cacaphony of noise and I have to rush to mute my computer!). WHY Kickstarter??? Why have you done this???
    It reminds me of those websites from the 90s that would start playing music when you’d go to them and it would scare the crap out of you. Or those chain emails people would send that told you “turn up the volume” and then something screamed at you. Ugh.
    Also autoplay slows everything down since when I re-open 20 tabs I was looking at I now have to click on each one individually and stop the video from playing so the rest of my tabs will load. (For reference, normally I can open 50 tabs in Chrome without a problem!)

  29. I just sent an email to support@kickstarter.com stating my views and even linked them to this article. Hopefully they might read the comments and see the poll and see how many of us hate Autoplay and at least give us the option to disable it.
    Otherwise I’ll have to add an extension in Chrome to do that for me!

  30. Looks like they’ve finally disabled autoplay. Been checking a couple of current projects and no video running. Looks like Kickstarter got the message loud and clear.

  31. Did it really happen? No more autoplay? This is awesome! Thank you all for your comments, votes, and messages to Kickstarter. It’s great that they were willing to hear us out on this.

    1. That’s hilarious. I had just downloaded the add-in to stop autoplay on youtube and saw that it seemed to work on KS as well, unless they disabled autoplay at the same time, lol. Either way. Good news! =D

  32. I sent a substantial message to Kickstarter in representation of myself and my readers about this subject over the weekend, and I just got the response:

    “Sorry to hear you and your networks are not fans of autoplay. This is something we’re testing out on the site, so any feedback from our community is extremely helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – I’ll be sure to share them with our team.”

    It’s a weird and discouraging feeling–something I bet backers feel sometimes when talking to creators–to be told by someone that they’re listening to you while they’re clearly not listening to you.

    At the same time, who am I to feel that I “deserve” for Kickstarter to listen to me when I’m representing nearly 300 people who love Kickstarter but don’t like autoplay? Kickstarter can do whatever they want–that’s their choice. It may appear unfortunate and “incorrect” to me, but it’s still their choice.

  33. July 1st, I downloaded the magic actions for youtube, and it seemed to work (and other people said that their autoplay stopped, so I don’t know what caused it, but I have not had problems since then… Until now. Is autoplay back? What happened that they are automatically playing for me again? Really pissed…

      1. Was coming back to comment an update, and saw your response. They have added autoplay back on, BUT they have also added the option to turn it off on your account. So that’s fine. But I wonder who keeps autoplay on, when it autoplays muted, which seems pointless. And judging by your poll, not many people like it =P

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