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 didnt do a good job of communicating the impact of the new autoplay policy to developers, writes Google product manager John Pallett. This doesnt 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. Its also not a permanent measure. Pallett says that the limits will return in Chromes version 70 release in October, and hes still urging developers to change their code following Googles guidelines. You asked and we listened. Chrome 66 has been updated to temporarily remove the auto play policy for Web-Audio Developer Benji Kay, who created several online audio tools that were affected by this change, responded critically to Palletts post. Simply delaying the enacting of this policy doesnt 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 its 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 isnt an unmitigated win for developers, since Google isnt 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.
Many developers aren't satisfied with new October deadline to update code. Google is rolling back a recent Chrome browser update that inadvertently broke the audio in many HTML5-based Web games. But the browser maker says it plans to reimplement the feature in October, a move that has failed to satisfy many Web-based developers. Pallett says this temporary rollback is intended "to give Web Audio API developers... more time to update their code" before the auto-muting is brought back for Chrome version 70 in October. Affected developers will have until then to add a few lines to their code, thus re-enabling the auto-muted audio when a user first interacts with the page. That's not a very useful solution for developers who don't have access to the original code used to make legacy content, though, or those who can no longer update that code on the original servers hosting their work. Then there's the large bulk of "abandoned" games whose developers may not even be aware that their work is in need of an update or may not have the inclination to make even trivial modifications. "Unfortunately, the great majority of existing work will not be updated by October, or ever, and so we still face the effective cultural erasure of those works in October," QWOP developer Bennett Foddy writes in the Chromium thread. "You guys definitely have the power to break everyone's work, should you wish to exercise that power, but you do not have the power to make people add workarounds to code that they are not able to alter. " Other developers have suggested methods for stopping auto-playing audio that would be less disruptive to legacy interactive content, such as automatically muting new tabs or warning the user and offering options when a page first attempts to play audio. Pallett writes that Google is "still exploring options to enable great audio experiences for users" but notes that "this is a nontrivial user interface challenge with a lot of nuances. " That's not exactly an inspiring message for developers, especially when Google's default position for the moment seems to be simply reinstating the game-breaking changes in October. Having that kind of status quo failsafe in place could easily lessen the motivation to work out those "non-trivial user interface challenges" in a timely manner. "I believe Chrome could find a policy which accommodates developers while still protecting the principle users should explicitly authorize websites to play sound," developer Andi McClure writes in the Chromium thread. " The delay you have announced is a great opportunity to get things right this time."