Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Google: We're having to hit pause on Chrome's audio autoplay block

Google: We're having to hit pause on Chrome's audio autoplay block

Google released yesterday a Chrome update that temporarily fixed a bug that broke millions of web-based games, some of which couldn't play audio at all, despite whatever tricks and configs users tried.

Google says the policy will once again be applied to the Web Audio API in October, and that developers have until that point to update the code in their web-based games and apps according to Google's developer guidelines. So when the Web Audio API returns in October, there will still be some impact, unless Google can find some alternative workaround. Good news for game devs but the change is only temporary.

"We've updated Chrome 66 to temporarily remove the autoplay policy for the Web Audio API".

Videos that autoplay with sound are one of the most annoying things on the web, and and Chrome started cracking down on them in April.

The Chrome team said that the changes will not impact the web browser's new feature of silencing Internet videos and audio that have an autoplay feature.

Even following the rollback, many developers have voiced their complaints in Chrome's developer forum, with some suggesting that Google should consider making the new audio policy an opt-in change rather than something that is enabled by default.

"We're doing this to give Web Audio API developers (e.g. gaming, audio applications, some RTC features) more time to update their code", explains Google product manager John Pallett in a post. "You guys definitely have the power to break everyone's work, should you wish to exercise that power, but you do not have the power to make people add workarounds to code that they are not able to alter".

While the feature was obviously aimed at web pages with ads and auto-playing videos, it had an unforeseen side-effect of also muting HTML5 and JavaScript-based games.

Unless users had whitelisted a site or previously interacted with it, Chrome's blocking feature stops one of the most irritating elements of web browsing: the sudden playing of loud videos. Google now plans on re-introducing the restrictions in Chrome 70, but the Chrome team is looking into other options as well.

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