Background audio from a video or ad that starts playing in a tab you’re not using is arguably one of the most annoying experiences in modern web browsing. Slowly but surely, web browsers have started to recognize this annoyance and the Chrome team has been one of the best at introducing solutions. Chrome has an icon telling you which tab is playing the audio, recent builds of Chrome let you mute these annoying tabs with a single click, and now Google’s browser is introducing another feature: Backgrounded tabs will no longer autoplay media at all until you bring them into the foreground. Hallelujah.
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The news was first brought to light thanks to Chrome team member François Beaufort, who shared the following earlier today on his Google+ page:
Google Chrome will now defer playback of autoplay media until the tab is foregrounded in the latest Dev Channel. This means no more “Where’s that sound coming from?” moments when an ad for instance decides to autoplay in a tab you’ve specifically opened in the background.
Resources will still be preloaded if indicated but Chrome will delay the start of playback until you actually visit the tab.
This cool feature prevents obviously user annoyance but also conserves power as Chrome will only consume power once the tab is foregrounded.
The most obvious example is right-clicking a YouTube link and opening it in a new tab. In the most recent public build of Chrome, this allows the newly-opened YouTube video to just start playing in the background, even though you’ve never actually clicked the tab. This change which is now part of the latest build of Chrome Dev makes sure that videos, ads, and other media doesn’t autoplay at all until you actually click the tab yourself. As Beaufort points out, though, resources will still be preloaded.
While this will definitely help prevent annoying ads from playing in background tabs that you’ve yet to actually open, Beaufort also says that the feature will also help Chrome conserve power (something that’s much needed as anyone who uses Chrome on a MacBook will know). Since videos and ads don’t actually play until the user opens the tab, this should save battery over time. I can’t really see much of a downside to this feature, unless you’re the kind of person who loves autoplaying background video ads…