One of my favorite Chrome features since landed on other browsers-is the volume icon that appears when a tab is playing audio. Google went further by allowing this icon to be clicked and turn off the noisy tab. Now Google is leading the way again with a new Chrome Developer Channel (Dev) feature called “manage audio focus,” as first spotted. Ghacks.
This new feature automatically mutes browser tabs that are not in use. Imagine you are on Facebook later today. You open a bunch of stories you found there in new tabs. Unfortunately, some of these new tabs contain autoplay videos. Suddenly, a cacophony of reports and practical advice goes through your headphones.
When the “Manage audio focus” option is enabled, only the tab you are actually looking at will make noise. Well, more or less, but we’ll get to that in a second.
This feature is only available in the Chrome Dev channel, an experimental version of Chrome that may encounter problematic bugs from time to time. If you’d rather stick with the mainstream, ultra-stable version of Chrome, then don’t worry. I will update this story once the feature releases.
For those who would like to be a little daring, check out our previous tutorial on how to switch to different versions of chrome-it’s easy.
Once you are on the dev channel, copy and paste the following into the address bar: chrome: // flags / # enable-default-media-session.
Look for the title “Manage audio focus on tabs” – it should be highlighted. Click on the drop-down menu below and select Enabled. Now click on blue Now restart button that has just appeared at the bottom of the Chrome window.
You are ready to start using this feature. Open Facebook and YouTube. Let the YouTube video start playing with the sound. Then go to Facebook and … nothing happens. This is because the second tab hasn’t started playing audio yet. Scroll through your news feed until you watch a video (if your news feed looks like mine, it shouldn’t take long). As soon as this Facebook video starts to autoplay, the YouTube video will stop. Now, if you want to hear audio on Facebook, you will have to turn it back on as autoplay videos start to mute, but that’s just a social network quirk.
Do me a favor and turn on the sound of the Facebook video, then with the playing of the Facebook video, come back to YouTube. Press the play button on YouTube, the Facebook video will stop. Magic.
There are a few downsides to this feature at the moment: it only works with HTML5 video. If you go to a site that reads Flash (awkward!), The video will keep playing audio and all. There is a version of this feature that silences Flash, but because this is the Chrome Dev channel, Google is currently marking the “Flash focus” option as “experimental.” In other words, it’s probably not worth it right now. The good news is that most websites use HTML5 for video, and those that use Flash often fall back to HTML5 though. Flash is off.
The other problem is that this feature might fail from time to time, but it works well enough that it can be used right now. If you are not yet convinced by this feature or if you do not want to change the Chrome channel, try using an extension that allows you manually disable multiple tabs pumping audio.