We have all been here before: you are researching a topic or simply browsing the web and have opened a ton of links as background tabs, all of a sudden, one of these tabs goes rogue and obnoxiously assaults your eardrums with a horrendous ad about say, dish-washing detergent, which abruptly halts your peaceful, Zen-like browsing state. You anxiously hunt for tabs, struggling to find the culprit. However, like your average modern-day attention-deprived techno junkie, the endless list of tabs you have open is proving difficult to hunt through. Enter Google, the savior of 21st century internet mavens. In an effort to preserve our sanity, Google introduced the audio icon for Chrome tabs in January, 2014, much to the delight of the global citizenry. Church bells rang and angels descended from the heavens, children danced in the streets, soldiers laid down their arms, teenagers and adults alike actually had something they could agree upon; world peace finally seemed within our grasp. Ok, maybe that last bit is a slight exaggeration. Nonetheless, the introduction of this feature gave us the ability to quickly hunt down noisy tabs and avoid the seemingly endless reach of advertisers, which is pretty darn awesome.
Despite the awesomeness of the tab audio icon many users wished it could double as a mute button so that they would not have to mute the audio source manually or close the tab out of frustration. Apparently this functionality does exist as a beta feature you can enable via the Chrome flags experimental features page. This page may be unfamiliar to many of you but getting acquainted with it is worthwhile, as you can enable a host of beta features the Chrome development team is busily working on. Although these are “beta” or experimental features I have enabled many in the past and they have worked perfectly fine, they just aren’t necessarily ready for primetime yet; pay close attention to each features description, they contain warnings if it is particularly unstable or only meant for testing.
To turn the audio icon into a mute button simply navigate to this page and select “Enable” beneath the “Enable tab audio muting UI control” that is highlighted in yellow (see image below). Once Chrome is restarted you should be able to click the audio icon in order to mute the sound coming from that tab. Most users are reporting it works exactly as intended, especially if the audio is coming from a source coded using HTML 5. Some early adopters of the feature claimed the mute functionality is spotty when the source uses Flash, however, many have come forward recently and said it is working perfectly fine; your mileage may vary. While you are on this page you should check out some other experimental features. They work on Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, and Android although some are not available for Chrome on Android devices. A couple neat ones available for Android are the “Enable Reader Mode Toolbar Icon” and “Enable Reader Mode Button Animation”, which slides up the reader mode version of a web page instead of navigating to it when the reader mode button is pressed, much like the animation used when opening apps in Lollipop.
Although the audio icon mute button feature is relatively small in the grand scheme of things it is incredibly useful. Most of the time small improvements that focus on simplifying our user experience are the most appreciated. In the early days of Chrome these were the kind of features that attracted many users to the platform; Chrome was simple, effective, easy to use, and incredibly fast. Over the years Chrome has certainly moved away from its early vision of web browsing, oftentimes for the worse, prompting some users to abandon the platform. Seeing simple but effective features such as this being developed is very encouraging, we hope to see more of it in the future.