(Tab) Silence is Golden: Google Chrome Now Lets You Mute Specific Tabs

Do you remember that time when you learned that a certain website has auto-play videos when it sounded off in the middle of an important phone call?

Google has a fix. Last year Google blessed us with a speaker icon  for tabs so we can see which tab is making noise, and now Google is giving us the option to kill the audio on a single tab:

Google Chrome silience tab

You’ll need the latest version of Chrome to get this feature, and you can check which version you’re running in the “Help and About” menu.

This change had come as something of a surprise, given that Google had previously said that it would not let Chrome control content in this manner.  Chromium evangelist François Beaufort posted this explanation on Google+ last year:

After much debate, we decided not to proceed with a tab mute control, as this crosses a very important line: If we provide Chrome controls for content, we’re implying that Chrome should take on a responsibility to police content.

Today, users are (rightfully) mad at misbehaving content for doing things like auto-playing annoying ad audio, but they should continue to pressure web site authors to change this behavior. Also, some have pointed out that there is already a mute button to the right of the audio indicator (the “X”). In all seriousness, note that many web pages will register onClose() events to monitor when users leave their site. Thus, closing the tab will be a very strong signal to the web sites that their annoying ads are scaring all their users away!

He has a point; this is basically a concession that Chrome has to rescue users from recalcitrant web publishers who aren’t going to reform their behavior.

I think the better option would be to close the tab, which is what I plan to keep doing whenever I encounter annoying auto-play video.

In fact, now that I think about it I don’t expect that I will ever use this feature. It is much easier to find and press the mute button on my laptop (the F1 key) than it is to scramble to find and silence the one noisy tab.

That almost makes this a pointless feature, doesn’t it?


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. AndyHat20 October, 2015

    This will work great for me. My biggest problem with auto-playing videos is in RSS feeds (which I read via newsblur). I can’t just close that tab because then the video just restarts when I re-open the tab unless I scroll past the offending entry and get it marked as read. And if the video is at the end of more-than-one-page story, I may never even know which feed or article included the video. So now I’ll just keep the newsblur tab muted (that’s one of my always-open tabs) and I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

    So thanks for the post! I hadn’t noticed the new option, so I was quite glad when I right-clicked the tab and there it was 🙂

  2. Greg Strandberg21 October, 2015

    I will definitely be using this when I do research. More and more it’s local news sites that have this feature, as their print and TV services are being killed by the internet.

    Now, when can I get a pop-up muter? Those things are terrible. Do you really think I’m going to give you my email when I just wandered into your site from Google? So many sites need to wake up, realize that gimmicking users isn’t a recipe for a long-term relationship.

    1. Nate Hoffelder21 October, 2015

      Ad-blocking plugins will catch most of the harassing pop-ups.

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