While video autoplay has drawn scrutiny recently for playing graphic content without warning, Google is looking at solving a different problem associated with the common Web feature. Google engineers have been working with a version of the Chrome browser that plays only what users see.
The latest changes are being tested out now in Google's Chromium developers channel, according to software engineer and Chrome evangelist François Beaufort.
Chrome won't autoplay videos until their tabs are in the foreground, he announced in a Google Plus post.
"This means no more 'Where's that sound coming from?' moments when an ad for instance decides to autoplay in a tab you've specifically opened in the background," Beaufort says.
Page resources will still load in the background. It's just that autoplay videos won't start until users visit the tab on which the media is embedded. Chrome will only defer video playback until the associated page has been viewed for the first time.
Chrome and other browsers already display sound icons on tabs that are actively playing, meant to aid users in those "Where's that sound coming from?" moments, as Beaufort puts it. However, muted videos won't display those sound icons, and video playing in a background tab still wastes resources.
"This cool feature prevents obvious user annoyance but also conserves power as Chrome will only consume power once the tab is foregrounded," says Beaufort.
Another issue with video autoplay was highlighted this week, when social media users on Wednesday found an unsettling slaying automatically streaming in their newsfeeds.
Early Wednesday morning, reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward of central Virginia CBS affiliate WDBJ7, were gunned down on camera by a former co-worker, according to reports.
The 20-second video clip of the slaying was taken down quickly by social media sites, but it was too late for many people.
"Our hearts go out to the families affected by this terrible crime," said a YouTube spokesperson in response to the incident. "YouTube has clear policies against videos of gratuitous violence and we remove them when they're flagged."