Chrome has been making changes to how ads are displayed in the browser for some time now. In the most recent update of Google’s browser, some autoplay videos will now be blocked, while others will be allowed automatically.
In a blog post, Google outlines how the new autoplay video update works. Now Chrome will learn your preferences when it comes to videos that autoplay with sound. Using your browsing history, Chrome will start enabling or disabling autoplay videos with sound. If you typically choose to play videos on certain websites, Chrome will allow autoplay videos to run with sound. If you typically don’t watch the videos on a site, Chrome will start disabling their autoplay videos with sound.
Even if you don’t have a browsing history, the blog post says, certain sites will have their autoplay videos enabled or disabled as you start building your history. Whichever sites have the most people clicking to play videos with sound will automatically be enabled for you until the browser learns that you don’t want videos played on those sites.
This update comes after Google has already implemented many other ways to avoid certain ads and mute sites that autoplay ads with sound. In February, Chrome’s ad blocking system went live. Their ad blocking is meant to start automatically blocking certain ads that don’t meet their standards. And in January, Chrome introduced a way to permanently mute sites instead of just temporarily muting them while the tab was open.
All of these changes mean Chrome should soon become the browser to use if you specifically want to avoid annoying ads and autoplay videos (especially if you don’t want to deal with browser add-ons). In their blog post, Google notes that their new autoplay video blocking system will block “about half” of the autoplay videos that users want to avoid. Though not a full block of autoplay videos, it should cut down significantly on the annoyance of sound suddenly blasting from your device.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes as you surf the web. You might have heard about things like “cookies,” but do you know what they do or what else your browser is storing?
Whenever you use your browser, the sites you visit and actions you perform result in information being saved. This data is typically used to make navigating the web easier for you in the future.
Many different pieces of information are being stored while you’re online. Cookies are just one part of the equation. There’s also your browser’s cache, history, autofill information, saved passwords, and even more little bits of data.
Why does it matter?
You might be asking why you need to know about your browser data. Depending on the situation, you might want to change certain browser settings or learn how to clear your data. Understanding your browser data can do the following:
- Avoid privacy or security issues
- Help you make the right decisions with your settings
- Underline the importance of clearing your data
- Help you decide what data to clear
- Show you how some websites work
- Make it easier to troubleshoot problems
Also, many people use a browser on their computer, phone, or tablet every day. That’s a lot of data. It’s important to stay informed and know what’s being saved.
What data is being stored?
A lot of different kinds of information get stored while you’re using the web. In this article, let’s talk about some of the biggest types of data being saved, including how they work and what to watch out for.
What’s typically being communicated is information about what you’re doing on the site. Cookies help keep track of visits to a certain website, certain pieces of information, and things like what’s in your cart at an online shop. For instance, when you go back to a website and see your login information has been saved, it’s likely that cookies were used to do this.
There are two main types of cookies you should know—session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies are stored temporarily. Once a “session” is over, the session cookie is gone. This means you simply need to close out of your browser to lose the cookie. Persistent cookies, though, stick around. These are the kinds of cookies that help do things like save login information or preferences you’ve indicated on a website.
Though cookies are very helpful, it is possible for unwanted cookies to collect data about your visits and then be used in ways that aren’t helpful to you. For instance, some cookies can be used to keep track of your interests and show you ads based on those interests. This practice is concerning to some people. One way to try to combat this is to see if your browser allows you to block third-party cookies. These cookies are sent to your browser from a source other than the website you’re on—often from an ad on the page.
However, for the most part, it’s typically recommended to allow your browser to accept cookies. If you’re visiting safe websites, you’re probably not encountering unwanted cookies. They make visiting sites a much easier and enjoyable experience, as well.
Your browser history is pretty straightforward: it displays the sites you’ve visited in the past. Your history is a recording of the sites you’ve gone to, including the name of the page and when you visited. Depending on your browser, your history might go back to pages you visited months ago. This can be really helpful to you, because if you forget to bookmark a site, you can always go back and find it in your history.
If you’ve ever been told to “clear the cache,” you might have done so while wondering what you were even deleting. The browser cache is a way to save certain things on websites in order to load things more quickly and efficiently in the future. Pages or pictures on a website might be saved to the cache. This means that if you visit a site and certain images are saved to the cache, then the next time you try to load another page on the site with those images on it, they won’t have to be accessed from the website all over again—they’ll just be displayed from the browser cache.
This can be really helpful if you’re clicking through multiple pages on a website and there’s, say, an image at the top of each page being used as a banner. You won’t have to load it from the website every single time you click on a new page. Not only does this mean that things load more quickly for you, it also means it takes a bit of stress off the website’s server.
Autofill data is typically form information that’s saved for later. Think about all the times you’ve entered your address in a form. Storing autofill data means that next time you need to enter your address, you might not have to type it all back in again. This works with all kinds of information. Different areas (or “fields”) of a form often have names assigned to them. Autofill can use these names to identify which field to enter each piece of information into, so it won’t accidentally put your city in the field asking for your phone number.
Some browsers can also save your passwords for you. If you’re using different passwords for each different account you have (which you should—take a look at my article about managing your passwords!), then those passwords can be difficult to keep track of. You often have the option to let your browser remember the password for you. This password data is typically saved to just that certain browser on that specific computer.
Though it’s likely tempting to take this option, be careful! If you’re using a shared computer, others will have access to your accounts. Keep this in mind, and make sure you never save your password to the browser if strangers will have access to it.
What you can do with your browser data
Now that you know about some of the data your browser is storing, you can make some informed decisions. Data takes up some space on your devices, and some of the stored data may be totally useless to you (or even completely unwanted), depending on how you typically use your browser. The good news is, you do have some choices when it comes to your browser data.
Change your settings
Most browsers allow you to change your settings to fit your needs. For instance, you can choose to block third-party cookies, or, if you want, even block all internet cookies. You might also want to turn autofill on or off. Depending on your browser, you can likely edit your autofill information, as well. If you have a new address, you can update your old autofill information. If you saved some information on accident, you can delete it. You can also turn saved passwords off and on, as well as delete passwords. Most of this data can be managed in some way.
In Chrome, you can find these kinds of options in your Settings under the Advanced section. In Firefox, these options can be found in the Options under Privacy & Security. Similar settings can be found in most popular browsers.
Clear some or all of your data
You can clear your browser data as often as suits you. Unless you’re having issues with your browser, you probably don’t really need to clear your data. On the typical PC, browser data doesn’t usually take up that much space. Of course, phones and tablets can be a completely different story. If you don’t have much space left on your phone, clearing your browser history actually can make a notable difference.
Also, you can clear data if you have any privacy concerns. If you share your device, you might want to clear your history. (You can also bypass this altogether by using something like Chrome’s incognito mode, which prevents browser data from being saved while in use.)
You can typically choose which data to delete and how far back you’d like to go. For instance, you might only want to delete your history so you keep your cache and cookies for easier browsing. You could delete just some of your recent history, or you could delete it all. Take a look in your browser’s settings to see which options you can choose from!
There may be more ways to customize your browser than you think. If you’ve never really looked into what your browser can do, you might not even know what options you have. Fortunately, most popular browsers can have really cool capabilities once you personalize them. If you find some aspect of your browser inconvenient, it’s possible there’s a way to get rid of those irritations. Even if you think your browser is fine the way it is, you could be missing out on some cool little tricks that change the browsing experience.
In this week’s Internet 101, let’s talk about how customization works and what you might want to add to your browser!
Why you might customize your browser
You might feel like your browser does everything you need it to do—and of course, that’s possible. But browsers are able to be customized for a reason, and one size doesn’t always fit all with browsers.
Your browser’s default settings can really just be a starting point. Depending on what you like, what annoys you, or what you really need, you can likely tweak your browser to make things simpler and more fun.
Here are just a few reasons you might customize your browser:
- Accessibility needs
- Privacy concerns
- Website annoyances
How do you customize your browser?
Customization works differently depending on which browser you’re using. Since we’re keeping it simple, I’ll just mention that some more experienced tech-minded people might customize their browser by hacking it or by essentially building their own. But for the purposes of this article, let’s stick to the much easier options.
Options, preferences, or settings
Every browser will have preferences or settings of some kind. These options are built-in to the browser. You don’t have to download anything new or go searching for specific tools that you need to add.
Depending on which browser you have, these options might be fairly basic or surprisingly complex. If there are a lot of options, don’t get overwhelmed—just scan through for words or terms you recognize, and try to avoid changing any options that you don’t really understand. Otherwise it could be a hassle to go back and figure out what has been changed!
Extensions or add-ons
Extensions or add-ons are a different way to customize your browser. If your browser has these available (and it very likely does), you can install them to open up even more options. They’re not pre-installed, so you will typically have to search or browse through all the offerings to find what you want.
What can you customize?
There are many different ways to customize most browsers. Of course, some browsers are much more able to be customized than others. And don’t forget, this is just a brief overview of some popular or particularly interesting things to consider. You can do many more things than listed here—browse through your browser’s settings to see if there’s more that interests you! Also, if you use Opera Browser, don’t forget you can use Install Chrome Extensions, and if you use Vivaldi, you can install Chrome extensions by following Vivaldi’s instructions.
(Note: As of writing this article, Safari’s extensions gallery was not accessible. Once it’s able to be viewed, this article may be edited to include Safari options.)
Look through built-in accessibility options
Most browsers will have these options built in to their settings or preferences. You can find change things like font size, use of color, and more.
Make images easier to see
Work with language tools
There are a lot of things you can do with language extensions. There are a few extensions you should definitely consider adding.
Save things for later
Sure, you can bookmark things for later, but some tools are even better than bookmarks. Take a look at some extensions that make it easier to save content for later.
If you want to save things for access from multiple devices, look at Google Keep for Chrome, Save to Google Drive for Chrome, OneNote Web Clipper for Firefox, Evernote Web Clipper for Microsoft Edge, Save to Pocket for Microsoft Edge, or Pocket for Opera.
Cut back on space and time
Some extensions will help use less data, which can save time, or change how your browser works so your browser just moves more quickly. Here are a few ways you can speed your browser up and save space while you’re at it.
To speed your browser up by blocking websites from using trackers, try Ghostery for Microsoft Edge.
Get rid of annoyances
There are many, many things about browsing websites that can be unbelievably irritating. There are two offenders that are perhaps worse than the others.
Change the visuals
Your experience with your browser could completely change just by changing the browser’s appearance. It can be lovely to make a browser look more like your own style, and it’s helpful to set things up in a way that makes sense to you. Here are just a few ways to do that.
To change the colors or images displayed on your browser, look to see if the browser supports themes. You can browse themes or wallpapers for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Vivaldi. If you don’t use these browsers, yours might still have themes available. You can often find out by looking in your browser’s settings or preferences.
Have some fun
There are, of course, quite a few extensions or add-ons you can use to do fun, random, or just very specific things. Below are some popular ways you might use your browser extensions for fun.
Finally (and very importantly), to add emojis (or even Bitmojis!) to your messages and posts, check out Bitmoji for Chrome, Emoji Keyboard for Chrome, Emoji Keyboard for Firefox, or Emoji Keyboard for Opera.