View on GitHub


Audio Focus API Explainer

Last modified: Feb 13th 2019


People consume a lot of media (audio/video) and the Web is one of the primary means of consuming this type of content. However, media on the web does not integrate well with the platform. The Audio Focus API helps to close the gap with platforms that have audio focus such as Android and iOS. This API will help by improving the audio-mixing of websites with native apps, so they can play on top of each other, or play exclusively.

Additionally, on some platforms the user agent will automatically manage audio focus for the site based on whether media elements are playing or not. In some cases this may not match user expectations so this API will provide overrides for the authors.



API Design

Firstly, audio focus means an audio-producing object is allowed to play sound. By convention, there are several audio focus types for different purposes:

The AudioFocusSession is the main interface for this API. It can have the following states:

The page can have a default AudioFocusSession which is used by the user agent to automatically request and abandon audio focus when media elements start/finish playing on the page. This session is created automatically by the user agent when the page is loaded.

enum AudioFocusState {

enum AudioFocusType {

interface AudioFocus {
  // The default audio focus session that the user agent will use
  // when media elements start/stop playing. This will be created
  // by the user agent when the page is loaded. If set to null then
  // this feature will be disabled.
  attribute AudioFocusSession? defaultSession;

[Exposed=Window, Constructor(AudioFocusType type)]
interface AudioFocusSession : EventTarget {
  // Request audio focus from the platform and the boolean will be
  // true if the request was successful.
  Promise<bool> request();

  // Abandons audio focus. Throws an error if the session does
  // not have audio focus.
  Promise<void> abandon();

  readonly attribute AudioFocusState state;
  attribute EventHandler onchange;

There should only be one audio focus session active on a page at one time. If there are multiple sessions on a page then when one requests audio focus it will make all the other sessions inactive.

Sample Code

A site manages its own audio focus

In this situation a site (e.g. a game) wants to manage its own audio focus. In this case it can use the following code to create an AudioFocusSession and request/abandon audio focus:

// Prevent the user agent from managing focus
audioFocus.defaultSession = null;

const session = AudioFocusSession(transient);

 (success) => {  /* handle request result */ },
 (e) => {  /* internal error */ });

 () => {  /* audio focus was abandoned */ },
 (e) => {  /* could not abandon audio focus */ });

session.addEventListener(onchange, (e) => // state change);

A site would like to customise it’s audio focus

In this situation a site would like to use the default audio focus logic provided by the user agent. However, they would like to customise the type of audio focus to request. Therefore, they create a custom audio focus session and assign it to the defaultSession variable.

audioFocus.defaultSession = AudioFocusSession(transient);

// 1. Site starts playing some transient media
// 2. User now clicks a video

audioFocus.defaultSession = AudioFocusSession(ambient);
    onchange, (e) => // state change);

// Site plays the video and the user agent will automatically
// manage audio focus.
A site would like to observe audio focus state
If a site would like to simply observe the audio focus state. They can create an event listener on the default session of the page.

    onchange, (e) => // state change);

A site is playing a combination of media types

If a site would like to play a combination of media types (e.g. a video and a notification) then they should change the default session of the page and manually duck their own video.

// A user is playing a video on a site and receives a notification 
// ping.

audioFocus.defaultSession = AudioFocusSession(transient);

// All other sessions are ducked. We should also duck the video
// element on the page by manually adjusting the volume.

video.volume = 0.8;

// When the ping is done playing we can change the focus back to
// playback and the playing video will join that session.

audioFocus.defaultSession = AudioFocusSession(playback);

This is an alternative implementation without using the default session:

audioFocus.defaultSession = null;

// A user starts playing a video on a site.
const session = AudioFocusSession(playback);

// The user receives a notification ping. In this case calling
// request on |transientSession| will make |session| inactive.
const transientSession = AudioFocusSession(transient);

    onchange, (e) => {
       // If the session becomes active then all other audio on
       // the system is ducked so we should also manually duck
       // our video element.
       video.volume = transientSession.state == active ? 0.8 : 1.0;


// When the ping is done playing we can change the focus back by
// calling request on the first session since this will make
// |transientSession| inactive.