Google partially rolls back Chrome 66's autoplay changes

Thursday, 17 May, 2018

Along with Site Isolations trials, Symantec distrust and a slew of bug fixes, the most front-facing feature in version 66 was easily Chrome's new autoplay policies for embedded media on websites.

That's not what Chrome's developers intended: the plan was to stop auto-playing vids from assaulting your ears and chewing bandwidth.

Google is rolling back a recent Chrome browser update that inadvertently broke the audio in many HTML5-based Web games.

"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.

Pallet admitted, "We didn't do a good job of communicating the impact of the new autoplay policy to developers using the Web Audio API".

Introduced in Chrome 66 with the best of intentions, Google's new restrictions on media prevent websites from running audio or video as soon as the page is loaded - so-called auto-play media, beloved of advertisers and those looking to drive viewers to other content on their site. Yet with an adjustment of such potentially high impact landing in Chrome 66, clearly more communication was needed.

Google scaled back a new auto-play policy in the latest version of its Chrome web browser, meant to stop unwanted video ads with sound from serving up and playing without notice. Developers and users, however, complained. But it's having the unexpected effect of stopping web apps and games from playing audio, much to the annoyance of developers.

The policy will be re-applied to the Web Audio API in the Chrome 70 release this October.

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.

However, while Google is planning to bring back the policy in October, Pallett noted that Google has yet to solve a "non-trivial user interface challenge with a lot of nuances".

Unfortunately, older games and those that weren't coded with such policy remained irrevocably broken, no matter what Chrome options users tried to modify in their settings sections. Unless web developers scramble to use the Web Audio API instead of those tags, Chrome should continue to save your ears from unwanted and potentially obnoxious noises while you browse.