Google Fixes Issue That Broke Millions of Web-Based Games in Chrome

Stephen Shankland  CNET

Stephen Shankland CNET

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.

That's not what Chrome's developers intended: the plan was to stop auto-playing vids from assaulting your ears and chewing bandwidth.

"We're doing this to give Web Audio API developers (e.g. gaming, audio applications, some RTC features) more time to update their code", said Google Chrome product manager John Pallett, in a comment on the issue page.

Pallet admitted, "We didn't do a good job of communicating the impact of the new autoplay policy to developers using the Web Audio API". This likely means a fair amount of games are about to be abandoned as Google does not intend to change how their block works but are instead putting the onus on the devs to change the code on their free to play games. Yet with an adjustment of such potentially high impact landing in Chrome 66, clearly more communication was needed.

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Google developer advocate Myles Borins confirmed yesterday that the audio pausing policy would be temporarily rolled back.

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. Developers and users, however, complained. But the feature reportedly also silenced the audio in web-based games.

"We are still exploring options to enable great audio experiences for users, and we will post more detailed thoughts on that topic here later", Pallett added. The browser began with a list of 1,000 websites where Google found that users typically played audio or video with sound. As others have pointed out, this is a non-trivial user interface challenge with a lot of nuances. Then, as you browse the web, Chrome updates that list as it learns where you play media and where you don't. One user also says that the reversion only partially addresses the problem: "Because the rollback was not applied to audio tags, many WebAudio projects are still broken", they wrote.