Hi-Tech

Google pulling Chrome auto mute functionality after it silenced some web games

Google pulling Chrome auto mute functionality after it silenced some web games

Google has partially rolled back an update to its popular Chrome web browser, after discovering that changes introduced to block auto-playing media were wreaking havoc on the browser-based gaming scene.

One of Google's project managers for Chrome, John Pallett, said: "We've updated Chrome 66 to temporarily remove the autoplay policy for the Web Audio API". The new functionality was meant to silence auto-playing audio and video in the web browser, but it inadvertently muted audio from many web games and other projects too, with no way to get it back. Developers of browser games collectively called out Google for the change, and they responded. Sadly, the change had an unintended side effect: Many browser-based games, which make use of the Web Audio application programming interface (API), fell silent.

The policy will be re-applied to the Web Audio API in the Chrome 70 release this October. Affected developers will have until then to add a few lines to their code, thus re-enabling the auto-muted audio when a user first interacts with the page.

Put simply, the autoplay changes are still in place for HTML5 video and audio (so autoplaying videos are still blocked), but not for the Web Audio API that most games use.




The tentpole feature in Chrome 66 is a new set of autoplay restrictions aimed at reducing annoying videos that automatically start playing back.

Google's Chrome team recently said that it has updated the mobile web browser to temporarily put on hold the autoplay policy for the apps, games, and RTC features using the Web Audio API.

Google says it is "still exploring options to enable great audio experiences for users", so it may come up with an alternative solution in the future. As others have pointed out, this is a non-trivial user interface challenge with a lot of nuances.

"I believe Chrome could find a policy which accommodates developers while still protecting the principle users should explicitly authorize websites to play sound", developer Andi McClure writes in the Chromium thread. As users continue browsing the web, Chrome updates that list as it learns where you play media and where you don't.


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