When Chrome OS added the rich notifications for media playback – borrowed from Android’s implementation at the time – we were pretty excited because it was a nice way to see your current, active media in a graphic-forward way. This happened at a time when Chrome OS was beginning to adopt more and more of Android’s visual styling and it was honestly quite exciting to see features like this come to the somewhat-plain UI of Chrome OS.
Fast forward to today and users are beginning to tire of the rich media taking up their precious notification space. I’d have to agree. If you have a YouTube video playing along with a music track, those two large media cards will eat up the majority of the small space you have for notifications. While I wish Chrome OS would go back to having the notifications split from the system tray, getting these large media cards out of the way is the next best thing.
While Chrome adopted a clean, concise global media controller quite some time ago on other platforms, we’ve been waiting and wondering how this would get implemented on Chrome OS. To be honest, I wasn’t at all excited about the idea of a ‘global’ controller that only lived in Chrome instances. Sure, I have the Chrome browser open quite often, but anything global on Chrome OS shouldn’t necessitate the user opening up a browser to access it.
As it turns out, Google looks to be bringing proper global media controls to Chrome OS is a way that will truly be global and also out of the way (my featured image up there is just a mock-up). There are a slew of commits around the work being done right now over in the Chromium Repositories, and one of those commits has a link to a bug that contains a screen grab of where this new system-level toggle will live. Nested right beside the system tray, a small button will come into view when any media on your device is playing.
More than just playback controls
It would also appear that the global media controls won’t just be for seeing, playing and pausing your media. From the looks of this commit, the new widget area will also be responsible for routing where your playback happens, too.
Persist GMC audio device selection through same origin navigation.
When an audio device is selected via the GMC UI that setting should persist for all media on that origin in that session until another selection is made.via the Chromium Gerrit
I’d assume “audio device selected via the GMC UI” means when audio output is decided by the global media controls interface, that selection needs to be persistent and take precedent. Ideally, this would mean there will be a way to cast and/or route media through Bluetooth devices via the UI for these new global controls once they launch. In Android 11’s new media controls, this is exactly how Google is handling things. Speaking of those media cards…
Paginated playback cards
This final part is a bit of a guess, but an educated one. Android 11 introduces media cards in its latest version of global media controls. If you have more than one media source playing back, your media controls area allows you to swipe left or right through those seperate sources instead of taking up more verticle screen real estate. Check it out:
From the looks of the language in this commit, it seems likely that we’ll see the global media controls on Chrome OS have a similar setup. After all, it honestly makes far more sense to paginate these sorts of things instead of stacking them one on top of the other and quickly running out of vertical screen real estate. Take a look at some of the language to see what I mean.
// After navigating to another page on the same origin, newly created players should use the previously set device.
// Clear the players and navigate to a new page on a different origin
// After navigating to another page on a different origin, newly created players should not use the previously set device.via the Chromium Gerrit
All together, this could be a very useful, very helpful, and very confined addition to Chrome OS that will not only make wrangling media playback a bit easier, but nicer looking as well. In additon to providing value from those perspectives, it will also rid the constrained notifications area of the huge media playback cards that it seems most people aren’t very fond of these days. We’ll keep an eye out for further development as this feature progresses.