Google is taking a smarter approach to autoplay content, with its latest Chrome update promising to learn what you want to hear – and what you don’t – to make browsing less annoying. Autoplaying music and videos can be one of the more frustrating aspects of the modern web, given how frequently sites are now including videos that automatically begin playback, or adverts that start talking to you and force you to go hunting down the offending tab.
Browser-makers in general have been introducing new tools to help deal with that over the past year or so. First, there were icons in browser tabs, showing which were responsible for making sounds. Usually, you can then click those speaker icons to mute the tab altogether.
Chrome then enabled the complete blocking of autoplaying videos and audio back in April. That had been previewed for several test builds, but graduated to the mainstream release with Chrome 66. Content that has no audio, or mutes it by default, are still allowed to autoplay, however, or if the content is on a frequently-visited site.
Google’s latest evolution of that brings more of your browsing history into the mix. As you navigate online using Chrome, it will progressively learn which sites you enable sound on, and which you don’t. From that, it will build up a profile of individual preferences, and then begin to automatically turn audio on or switch it off according to what it believes you’re most likely to do.
Before that browsing history is built up sufficiently for Chrome to make an educated guess, it’ll fall back on a default whitelist. Chrome will allow autoplay for more than 1,000 sites where Google has observed the highest percentage of visitors typically play media with sound.
“As you teach Chrome, you may find that you need to click “play” every now and then,” John Pallett, product manager on the Google Chrome team, says, “but overall the new policy block about half of unwanted autoplays, so you will have fewer surprises and less unwanted noise when you first arrive at a website.”
It’s not just about silencing annoying adverts and intrusive floating video players, however. The new Chrome feature will also work in the other direction, getting media playing more quickly if the browser is confident it’s something you’ll want to hear. If you regularly load a music playlist, for instance, on a certain site like SoundCloud or similar, Chrome could figure out that you’re going to want to play it and streamline that process.
The new feature is part of the latest Chrome release, which is available to download today.