Google tried to block autoplay videos on Chrome. But it broke apps and games

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Google partially rolls back feature that removes loud and unwanted videos after complaints from users and developers

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Google originally muted nuisance videos within Chrome to stop pushing users to install adblocking software.
Photograph: Google

Google has partially rolled back Chrome’s blocking of autoplaying video with sound after it was found to break a large collection of web apps and games.

The blocking feature was launched in April, and seemed to constitute a big step forward in removing one of the most irritating aspects of the modern web: loud, sudden and unwanted autoplaying videos.

But the update also broke a series of apps, games and interactive art in the process, preventing them from playing audio for alerts and other elements, and causing complaints from developers and users of these interactive web apps.

One of Google’s project managers for Chrome, John Pallett, said: “We’ve updated Chrome 66 to temporarily remove the autoplay policy for the Web Audio API.

“We’re doing this to give Web Audio API developers (eg gaming, audio applications, some RTC features) more time to update their code. The policy will be reapplied to the Web Audio API in Chrome 70 (October).”

The change was greeted with scepticism by developers. Benji Kay, a developer of web games and audio tools, said: “Simply delaying the enacting of this policy doesn’t solve any of the major concerns that have been raised.

“Come October, any existing software which utilises sound and which is not or cannot be any longer maintained will be broken.”

Pallett said that the change will not affect Chrome’s silencing of most autoplaying video and audio on the web. But whether this loophole will end up being abused to autoplay video with sound and get developers to update their apps to avoid them being muted remains to be seen.

The original muting of the nuisance videos within Chrome was designed to remove one of the annoyances that might have pushed users to install adblocking or other software, something Google wants to avoid as advertising is the primary source of the company’s revenue.

But as Chrome is the dominant browser on the internet, claiming a 57.4% share of online users in April across desktop and mobile according data from StatCounter, any changes have a significant impact on the way the web works.

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