Google Rolls Back Change That Broke Web-Based Game Audio In Chrome

Google has partially rolled back a change made in Chrome 66 that prevented audio from playing in some web-based games. The company said it plans to reintroduce the change with Chrome 70, which is set to debut in October, and that developers should have worked around it by then.

Chrome 66 introduced a new autoplay policy that prevented audio and video from automatically playing in a browser tab. This change was supposed to make it easier to browse without having to worry about being deafened, harassed, or merely annoyed by something playing without your input. Yet it seems to have accidentally prevented web-based games that rely on the Web Audio API from playing sounds for their Chrome-using players.

Developers who use the Web Audio API quickly complained to Google about the change. Some requested user interface elements that would allow people to control how autoplay content is handled in Chrome, while others simply wanted their games to play their usual variety of music and in-game sounds. For now, at least, Google opted for the temporary solution of excluding Web Audio API content from Chrome's autoplay policy.

"This report was originally filed with a user interface suggestion for controlling autoplay. As others have pointed out, this is a non-trivial user interface challenge with a lot of nuances," Chromium developer John Pallett said in the post announcing this change. "We are still exploring options to enable great audio experiences for users, and we will post more detailed thoughts on that topic here later."

He didn't say when "later" might be.

The good news is that Google isn't throwing out the baby with the bath water: Pallett said the change "does not affect most media playback on the web" because the "autoplay policy will remain in effect for <video> and <audio>" content. 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.

Pallett said Google is rolling back the change made in Chrome 66 to give developers more time to properly react to the new system. "The team here is working hard to improve things for users and developers," he said, "but in this case we didn’t do a good job of communicating the impact of the new autoplay policy to developers using the Web Audio API." Now those developers have a few months to get everything in order.

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