How to know which browser tab is playing sound

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Any website that automatically starts playing sound as soon as it loads up should be on some kind of blacklist. Whether it’s a selection of background music, or a news video, or any other kind of audio – any web designer with a clue knows to not have that stuff automatically start up. You give your website visitor the option to play sound – you don’t force it upon them. Autoplay on a website is rude and tacky, and it guarantees that I leave that site immediately.

Can you tell I have a rather strong opinion about this subject?  🙂

browser tab sound


What’s even worse is having sound come from your computer, and not knowing where it’s coming from – which makes it very difficult to turn off.

Here’s a common scenario:

Imagine you are doing some research on a subject for a blog post or a report for work. You have Internet Explorer or Firefox opened up, and you have a lot of different webpages opened – each one in its own tab. So you might have 10 or 15 tabs open, or maybe even more. Everything’s going fine, you’re making good progress, when suddenly… you hear someone talking. You know the voice is coming from your computer speakers. It sounds like a YouTube video maybe? But you can’t tell, because it could be coming from any of the 15 or more web pages you have open in web browser tabs.

What do you do at that point?

1. You could just close Firefox or Internet Explorer completely, but then you lose all of those web pages that you want to use as part of your research. It would take a long time to find all of them again.

2. You could go through them one by one, scrolling all the way down the page until you find the source of the sound, and turn off the video or audio player to silence it. That could also take a while.

3. You could hit the Mute button on your screen, or physically turn off your speakers. This could be the quickest, most practical solution to solve the immediate problem – especially if you happen to be in a library or some other place where such noise is frowned upon.

But really, the best solution is to prevent the mystery of “which browser tab is playing the sound” from happening in the first place. The way to do that is to NOT use Internet Explorer or Firefox. Instead, use Google Chrome.

Google Chrome

Chrome recognized this problem and solved it. When one of your browser tabs is on a webpage that is generating sound, the tab itself will display a little “speaker” icon so you can immediately see which one it is.

Here’s what it looks like. This is a screenshot of my Chrome browser with 3 tabs open. The first one is Facebook, the second one is MSN, and the third one – the one that’s playing sound at the time – is YouTube. See the little speaker icon next to the X at the right?

Chrome tabs


Here’s a larger image of the YouTube tab so you can see the speaker more clearly:

Chrome tab speaker


So obviously, when you have a bunch of tabs open and you see that one has the speaker icon, you know that’s the tab that is generating the sound. You can either go to that tab and stop the video or whatever is causing the sound, or just close the tab.

Internet Explorer and Firefox don’t have this feature. Just one more reason to use Chrome!

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Fred Patrick
September 15th, 2014

Started with Google Chrome but too many advertisements popping up.

Scott Johnson
September 15th, 2014

Chrome does not add any advertisements. Most likely you have malware on your computer that is inserting ads.

September 17th, 2014

Firefox has this feature as well. Instead of the horn, it shows the universal Play symbol. I think it’s a new feature, and may not yet appear on as many websites as Chrome will, but it’s definitely there.

Scott Johnson
September 17th, 2014

Thanks John, you are correct. I checked it in Firefox earlier and didn’t see anything, but my Firefox just updated late yesterday and now I see the little Play symbol on the tab that has sound. Good job Firefox!