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

The feature inadvertently muted the audio from some web services, without offering a way to unmute it.

Published onMay 16, 2018

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Google is rolling back part of the auto mute feature it introduced with Chrome 66 in April. The new functionality was intended 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.

In its Chromium Bug Tracker (via Engadget), Google said it is has now decided to temporarily remove the auto mute Web Audio API. This shouldn’t affect most audio and videos (included in the <audio> and <video> HTML tags), which will continue to be auto-muted, but should ensure the accidentally affected web components are working correctly. 

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Google says the autoplay policy will be reapplied with Chrome 70 in October, giving developers a chance to rework their projects’ code to support the new API.

This is, apparently, reasonably easy to do; however, some users have complained that, even with several months to act, not every game, art project, or whatever else will be updated. This might simply be out of the control of some creators, and it could mean their works are silenced for good. 

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.

Google’s auto mute system learns from user behavior to mute audio on sites where they don’t want it, and maintain it on sites where they do. If you haven’t noticed it yet, that could be the reason why.

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