An upcoming version of the popular web browser Google Chrome will do away with one of the more annoying aspects of the modern web by automatically muting tabs that have sound that plays automatically.
The muted playback of auto-playing videos and other media will start in Chrome 64, which is scheduled to be available for the general public starting in January 2018—with a beta version of the quieter web browsing experience available in December.
The change won’t make the web totally silent—videos will be allowed to automatically play as long as they are muted, and Google will allow users to indicate their interest in certain content to allow that media to play by default. It’s the content that sneaks up on users, audio blaring, that will be blocked out by the change.
The change also finally represents a unified experience across desktop and mobile, as auto-playing videos on the mobile version of the browser have already been given the silent treatment. Now the desktop experience will match up.
In advance of the changes in Chrome 64, Google will provide users with some customization features for controlling their media experience in Chrome 63. With the launch of that version of the Chrome browser, users will be able to completely disable audio for individual sites.
The decision to mute a specific site will remain persistent throughout the browsing experience so every time you visit a site designated to be muted, its media will be silent—even after you restart your browser and return to the site.
The ability to mute individual sites will appear first in the beta version of Chrome 63, available this month. A stable, public version of the browser update is expected to be made available in October, where the general public who keep their browser up to date will gain access to the ability to mute sites.
Google’s decision to mute auto-playing content follows in the footsteps of Apple’s Safari browser, which has provided users with similar tools. The upcoming version of the web browser, Safari 11, will allow users to mute auto-playing media with sound, block auto-playing content in individual sites or even bar auto-playing media from their web browsing experience entirely.
The move by browser makers to limit media that plays without their say will be a welcome change, as auto-playing videos have often been derided as one of the most annoying forms of advertising.
A study conducted by Hubspot last year found nearly four in five people—79 percent—found autoplaying videos to be annoying. The only two forms of advertising that were received more poorly were pop ups and unsolicited phone calls.
In addition to removing one of the biggest annoyances of the web for most users, the decision to mute auto-playing video is a web for web accessibility. Visually impaired web users often rely on tools like screen readers to help them browse the internet. Auto-playing content is often disruptive to their experience, and difficult to close or remove. Muting that content by default should make the web a better place for those users.