- Google is testing the ability to mute entire webpages through an info bubble button in canary versions of its Chrome browser, per a Google+ blog post. Chrome canary is the earliest release of new versions of Chrome and includes a variety of new features.
- For users, once the website is muted, it won't automatically play sound on videos — and, by extension, video advertisements — until unmuted.
- The feature will "give you more control about which website is allowed to throw sound at you automatically" wrote Francois Beaufort, Chromium evangelist at Google, in the post.
The planned Chrome tool shows that Google is continuing to put a high premium on improving the user experience and punishing advertising formats deemed undesirable and intrusive — qualities that encourage the adoption of ad-blocking software. Earlier this year, Google announced it would build ad-blocking capabilities natively into Chrome starting in 2018.
The ability to mute certain pages fits into a broader strategy of putting more power in the users' hands, and even though there's no guarantee the tool will actually be in the stable Chrome build, the fact Google is promoting it on its blog indicates the company sees serious interest in such an offering. Many media outlets and marketers already view Google as having far too much clout over the digital advertising space, so the company also stepping up to take on a role as arbiter of what constitutes a quality browsing experience is read by some as an alarming imbalance of power.
As ad blockers continue to see adoption, publishers have been feeling steep hits to revenue. Some are fighting back by asking or even requiring visitors to turn off their software or whitelist. But another common tactic is turning to ad formats like autoplay video that immediately grab the users attention, though not always in a positive way.