Gmail promo for Priority Inbox creeps out Chrome users

Bug triggers background music, sparks malware fears

Chrome users yesterday bombarded Google's Gmail support forum with complaints about music suddenly playing in the background when they reached their inboxes.

Some feared that their machines had been infected with malware.

"Those sound effects are quite unnerving when you first hear it," said a user identified as "goz3" on the Gmail support board. "I really thought it was some sort of twisted virus."

"I thought it was a virus, too," echoed "bradleyctclarke" on the same thread.

The cause, said a Google representative on the support forum, was a video promoting the e-mail service's new Priority Inbox feature.

Although the Google support rep said that the company was "working on fixing this" and apologized for the bug, Computerworld confirmed that the background video and its ragtime-style music was still affecting Chrome users on Tuesday.

Other browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, did not automatically fire up the video and its tune.

"I thought my account had been hacked -- especially when I heard the scrunching of paper," added goz3 in an earlier message Monday. "I thought, oh sh*t, my mail is being eaten up."

The unwanted music played only on machines running Chrome, and then only for users who have had the Priority Inbox feature enabled by Google. The new tool, designed to automatically rearrange messages to put the most important at the top of the inbox, is being rolled out in stages by Google, which yesterday said that it would reach everyone within the next week.

The gaffe is reminiscent of one Google made last May when a JavaScript-based version of the 1980 video game Pac-Man freaked out Firefox users, who heard siren sounds and offbeat music in the background when they were at the search engine's home page.

"MAKE IT STOP!" shouted someone tagged as "bleepo" on Monday. "If I get some annoying sound or ad every time I open Gmail on Chrome it will be enough to make me not use it."

To quell the music, Chrome users should click on the Priority Inbox link in the upper right, then stop the video play in the pop-up window.

Gmail
Some Chrome users thought their machines were infected with malware when Gmail suddenly started playing music.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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