Just don’t do it

Don’t make your web page play unsolicited music at me. Ever.

  1. It slows down loading of the page. For ages, sometimes.
  2. I want to listen to music when I choose, not when your site chooses.
  3. It’s your choice of music, not mine. Musical tastes vary widely.
  4. If it’s any good, it’s distracting: I’ll listen to it rather than read your site.
  5. If it isn’t any good, then I want to make it stop as soon as possible, so rather than reading your site, I’ll be frantically looking all over the page for anything that looks like a stop button. And then I’ll be trying to ensure that the music doesn’t play on subsequent visits.
  6. If I can’t find a way to permanently disable the music, then I’ll never visit the page again.
  7. If I do find a way to permanently disable the music, then other parts of your site may also not work when I visit, because they’ll have been disabled too. See below. Most likely I’ll have disabled Flash for your site, or I’ll have used the content blocker and it may have blocked more than I intended. And I’m pretty sure that if your site automatically plays music at visitors, it’ll be full of stuff that only works with Flash.
  8. Unless it’s a site I’m especially strongly motivated to visit, I probably won’t actually stay long enough to find out whether 5 or 6 applies anyway. I’ll leave within two or three seconds of the music starting. (There are usually a horrible few seconds more though, during which the browser takes its time over going back to the previous address and continues playing the music.)

Regarding no. 7: the videos on my own Tumblr site mysteriously stopped working for several weeks. All that appeared was a blank space where each video was supposed to be. I thought it was a bug in Opera, or in Tumblr’s template. Music player links didn’t work either: just an empty space.

Eventually I discovered by chance what had happened, when I wanted to give someone a link to one of the mysteriously-vanished videos. It wasn’t a bug at all. I opened the Tumblr post for editing, that being the only way to get at the link address. I copied the link and pasted into in the address bar, to go to YouTube and check it was the right video. But instead of being taken to YouTube, I got a message from the browser’s content blocker. It  said I was about to go to a blocked page, and asked if I really wanted to proceed.

What had happened? Weeks before, I’d visited a page with some kind of player on it which refused to be stopped. Normally the offending player is in the sidebar somewhere and there’s a stop button. Well this player either didn’t have one, or refused to respond to it.  In my efforts to silence the damn thing, I had inadvertently blocked all YouTube videos on all tumblr.com sites from being displayed—including ones on my own site. I’d intended simply to block YouTube videos on that particular page.

Remember John Cage’s silent piece 4’33” ? He once claimed that four minutes and thirty-three seconds was the average length of a Muzak Corporation record, as played in, I think, “shops and elevators”. He suggested that 4’33”  should be used instead. Somehow I think that if he were still alive he’d be very happy about the idea of applying the same principle to web pages.

Please, if you’re going to put music on the page, do it in such a way that I choose whether to listen to it, it doesn’t start until I press Play, and it stops when I press Stop.

3 responses to “Just don’t do it

  1. Andrew Mitchell

    You’re being too kind. I leave and never go back.

    • Ah but how do you ensure that you never go back? You might subsequently return by mistake, and then be assaulted by the music which you didn’t bother blocking . . .

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