Chrome muzzles auto-play audio

Background tabs don't auto-play until they're brought to the fore; feature will reach Stable build by October or November

Chrome will automatically silence any auto-played audio until that tab is explicitly brought to the foreground, a Google evangelist said Wednesday.

The sound deferment is a continuation of a move Google initiated almost two years ago, when it was the first browser maker to mark audio-playing tabs so that users can spot which website broke the silence.

"Google Chrome will now defer playback of auto-play media until the tab is foregrounded in the latest Dev Channel," said François Beaufort, a Google technology evangelist who specializes in Chrome, on Google+. "This means no more 'Where's that sound coming from?'-moments when an ad, for instance, decides to auto-play in a tab you've specifically opened in the background."

Beaufort added that the new functionality is now present in Chrome's Dev build -- one of several "channels" Google maintains -- and is slated to ship in the Stable build of Chrome 46.

With Google having released Chrome 44 to the Stable channel on July 21, Chrome 46 should ship sometime between the middle of October and the middle of November. Unlike rival Firefox, which sticks to an every-six-week release schedule, Chrome increments its numeric on a much looser six-to-eight-week slate.

The anti-auto-play feature builds on the 2013 labeling of tabs that are currently playing, a welcomed feature for those tired of trying to find the one previously-loaded page among a dozen or more tabs that's blasting sound.

Rival Mozilla is also adopting the same tab-marking scheme, although the feature has not yet landed in the production version of Firefox.

Chrome's new auto-play block switches off as soon as the user clicks the tab. Once a tab has been brought to the fore, audio will continue to play -- even if the tab is again pushed to the background -- to allow for playlist-based services, such as Spotify.

Google often has more than one motive when it changes Chrome -- the best example has been its clampdown on adware to quash rogue online advertising -- a side effect of this feature affects Google itself: Content on the company-owned YouTube, including pre-roll ads, also pauses until the pertinent tab has been pulled to the forefront.

The Dev build of Chrome can be downloaded from Google's website.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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