Google is delaying a Chrome audio update that broke countless web games

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is partially and temporarily rolling back a recent Chrome change that blocked autoplaying audio, after web developers complained that it had broken countless games and apps. The update rolled out with Chrome version 66 in early May, and it was intended to quiet annoying ads and videos that would drive users toward ad-blocking software. But it also ended up completely removing the audio from interactive web projects that relied on specific commands, which created problems for artists — and doomed any abandoned projects to silence.

“The team here is working hard to improve things for users and developers, but in this case we didn’t do a good job of communicating the impact of the new autoplay policy to developers,” writes Google product manager John Pallett.

This doesn’t fully remove the autoplay-blocking elements of Chrome 66. Instead, Google is rolling back limits on the Web Audio API system used by app developers, while leaving the limits on general audio and video autoplay intact. It’s also not a permanent measure. Pallett says that the limits will return in Chrome’s version 70 release in October, and he’s still urging developers to change their code following Google’s guidelines.

Developer Benji Kay, who created several online audio tools that were affected by this change, responded critically to Pallett’s post. “Simply delaying the enacting of this policy doesn’t solve any of the major concerns” with its contents, says Kay. Another developer, Ashley Gullen, previously laid out a proposal to fix the problem — but Pallett says it’s a “non-trivial user interface challenge” that Google is still examining. “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 writes.

This isn’t an unmitigated win for developers, since Google isn’t making any promises about addressing their core problems with the update. But by pushing the changes back to October, it takes some pressure off gamemakers and the Chrome team alike.

Comments

I just updated my build of chrome to Version 66.0.3359.181 (Official Build) (64-bit) and it still hasnt resolved the audio problems with the browser games I play on Chrome particularly Golf Clash

It is really funny… most of the bad advertisements are served by Google itself anyway, right? Why don’t they fix the root core of the issue, i.e. this kind of annoying ads should not be allowed at all…

I don’t think I’ve seen annoying audio ads from Google. I think they’re trying to address the irritating autoplay ones.

That said, unless I’m missing something, it seems to me that this could be solved by starting tabs with the sound muted and adding an option like right click→ allow audio on this tab, or an audio request, like when a site wants to know your location and you have to hit allow.

¯\(ツ)

I’m pretty sure I read recently that Google has limits on intrusive ads. Intrusive ads would tarnish their brand and since 90% of their revenue comes from ads..

Let’s wait for more detailed thoughts.

I think autoplay should simply be disabled. Don’t fail, just don’t do it until the user chooses play. And I don’t care if it breaks games (or YouTube). The user is always right.

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