Will no one rid me of this vile video buffering?
November 19, 2017 8:01 AM   Subscribe

My phone data plan has been mysteriously eaten for ~3 months, despite no change in browsing habits. I disabled image loading in Firefox and that helped some with data usage and also helped me ID a culprit: unwanted video buffering. How do I stop video, especially HTML5 video, from buffering? Note: I am not interested in youtube only hacks, or Facebook's stop autoplay. The buffering data use is the injury, the autoplay is the insult.

Specs for discussion: I updated my laptop first. I often hotspot my phone for my laptop. Windows laptop updated with Firefox ESR 52.5 on advice of many in prior thread, then updated UBlock-Origen, AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, Privacy Badger, then limited UBlock-Origen large media elements to 100 kb, disabled AdBlock Plus, Ghostery, Privacy Badger for analysis focus. I chose Facebook for test examples.

If I disable images in Firefox and browse Facebook, images are blocked, videos are not blocked. The images are blank, the video shows a picture. If I click on a video it starts playing and the progress bar shows that some of the video is already loaded / buffered. (I got the same results on some newspaper websites.)

When videos are surreptitiously buffering, my browser is silently using data "pre-watching" each and every one, even if I ignore the videos. On a video heavy site, like Facebook, that stealth data use adds up.

Anecdata: Other people on Facebook are also complaining about mysterious sudden data use.

How do I block video buffering so I don't have to buy more data? This mess is more than aggravating, it's costing me money.
posted by jointhedance to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't test on Facebook but I assume most of the videos are being loaded from YT and other external sites.

uBlock has the capability to prevent this by itself but I find it much easier to work with uMatrix. Given you're using ESR, install the legacy version (uMatrix.firefox.xpi), and add * * xhr block to your ruleset. Caveat: this will break a lot of stuff!

You may also add * * media block and * * images block as well, but for these 2 I reckon uBlock's "Block media elements larger than X kB" is a smarter choice.

To check if it works, go to an offending page, open Firefox's dev tools by pressing F12, in the Network tab check the disable cache box, and see how much data is transferred with and without the rules active, the total is displayed at the bottom.

If you need further help troubleshooting something feel free to ask here.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:16 AM on November 19, 2017

Does the "disable html5 audio autoplay" extension help? It claims to stop pre-loading of html5 video and audio.
posted by pharm at 11:49 AM on November 19, 2017

As of right now, on a fresh Nightly profile with only that extension installed and nothing else changed from the defaults, it doesn't work at all on YouTube videos.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:21 PM on November 19, 2017

> I can't test on Facebook but I assume most of the videos are being loaded from YT and other external sites.

Facebook has its own CDN and hosts all of the Facebook Live streams, so it really depends on what kinds of videos OP is watching.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:56 PM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the videos are served from a different domain than the CDN that serves useful requests then whitelisting the latter and blacklisting the former in uMatrix ought to be enough.

If they're the same, using uBlock's logger to create finer-grained rules would be required.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:24 PM on November 19, 2017

Another option that seems to work on YouTube.com at least: make videos click-to-play with NoScript.

NoScript options > Embeddings > Select Forbid AUDIO / VIDEO and Apply these restrictions to whitelisted sites too

YT videos now play and buffer only after clicking on the NoScript placeholder (must be done twice before the video starts for some reason).

Try it on Facebook before tinkering with uBlock/uMatrix.
posted by Bangaioh at 5:54 PM on November 19, 2017

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