4 min read

Google Chrome team finally announced the release date for its Autoplay Policy, earlier this week. The policy had been delayed when it was released with the Chrome 66 stable release, back in May this year. The latest policy change is scheduled to come out along with Chrome 71, in the upcoming month.

The Autoplay policy imposes restrictions that prevent videos and audios from autoplaying in the web browser. For websites that want to be able to autoplay their content, the new policy change will prevent playback by default. For most of the sites, playback will be resumed but a small code adjustment will be required in other cases to resume the audio.

Additionally, Google has added a new approach to the policy that includes tracking users’ past behavior with the sites that have autoplay enabled. So in case, if a user regularly lets an audio play for more than 7 seconds on a website, the autoplay gets enabled for that website. This is done with the help of a “Media Engagement Index” (MEI) i.e. an index stored locally per Chrome profile on a device. MEI tracks the number of visits to a site that includes audio playback of more than 7 seconds long. Each website gets a score between zero and one in MEI, where higher scores indicate that the user doesn’t mind audio playing on that website.
For new user profiles or if a user clears their browsing data, a pre-seed list based on anonymized user aggregated MEI scores is used to track which websites can autoplay. The pre-seeded site list is algorithmically generated and only sites with enough users permitting autoplay on that site are added to the list.

“We believe by learning from the user – and anticipating their intention on a per website basis – we can create the best user experience. If users tend to let content play from a website, we will autoplay content from that site in the future. Conversely, if users tend to stop autoplay content from a given website, we will prevent autoplay for that content by default”, mentions the Google team.

The reason behind the delay

The autoplay policy had been delayed by Google after receiving feedback from the Web Audio developer community, especially the web game developer and WebRTC developers. As per the feedback, the autoplay change was affecting many web games and audio experiences, especially on the sites that had not been updated for the change. Delaying the policy rollout gave web game developers enough time to update their websites.

Moreover, Google also explored ways to reduce the negative impact of audio play policy on websites with audio enabled. Following this, Google has made an adjustment to its implementation of Web Audio to reduce the number of websites that had been originally impacted.

New adjustments made for the developers

As per new adjustments by Google in the autoplay policy, audio will get resumed automatically in case the user has interacted with a page and when the start() method of a source node is called. Source node represents individual audio snippets that most games play. One such example is that of a sound that gets played when a player collects a coin or the background music that plays in a particular stage within a game. Game developers call the start() function on source nodes more often than not in cases whenever any of these sounds are necessary for the game. These changes will enable the autoplay in most web games when the user starts playing the game. Google team has also introduced a mechanism for users that allows them to disable the autoplay policy for cases where the automatic learning doesn’t work as expected.

Along with the new autoplay policy update,  Google will also stop showing existing annotations on the YouTube videos to viewers starting from January 15, 2019. All the other existing annotations will be removed.

“We always put our users first but we also don’t want to let down the web development community. We believe that with our adjustments to the implementation of the policy, and the additional time we provided for web audio developers to update their code, that we will achieve this balance with Chrome 71”, says the Google team.

For more information, check out Google’s official blog post.

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Tech writer at the Packt Hub. Dreamer, book nerd, lover of scented candles, karaoke, and Gilmore Girls.