Do you use the Turn Off the Lights extension for your Chrome browser? No? Have you even heard of it? What’s that – you think it’s an old and outdated tool that became irrelevant with the launch of Youtube’s Dark Mode? Well, so did I. When the extension’s developer reached out and asked us to give it another look after all these years, I was initially hesitant. I didn’t understand how this could be useful to our readers now that Dark mode is coming to Chrome OS and already exists across many websites.
However, after installing it and poking around a bit, I was surprised to find several features that quickly changed my opinion of it. This impressive tool no longer just dims the webpage behind your Youtube videos like it used to – let’s see what it’s capable of nowadays and how you may be able to make use of it on your Chromebook!
To kick things off, I want to state upfront that this is not a sponsored review – In fact, upon visiting the Turn Off the Lights Chrome Extension webpage, I was immediately met with several reviews that stated it was past its prime, and that people were uninstalling it. Truth be told, I almost didn’t give this a shot. The last time I used it was many, many years ago – think at the beginning of Chrome’s reign as a browser.
Its official description doesn’t lend it much credence either – Take a look at how it advertises itself. Immediately, anyone who is familiar with popular, current tech trends may immediately be turned away by the simple promise therein and instead, will simply turn on Youtube’s dark mode as ‘Incognito’ suggests above.
Turn Off the Lights is a lightweight and useful add-in designed for a more comfortable watching experience. It works for all known video sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Hulu, Metacafe, YouKu, etc. Not only this but these extensions are compatible with Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge, Maxthon and Yandex web browsers.Chrome Web Store
Interestingly, upon installing it in 2021, I was met with a surprising face full of innovation and improvements that far outshine its name and description. A webpage launched post-install that had a fully animated and interactive welcome guide that walks you through everything it’s now capable of. Yes, you can toggle it on at the top-right of your browser’s extensions menu to ‘Turn off the lights’ and dim the area surrounding a Youtube video, and yes, it works for tons of other websites too like Vimeo, Dailymotion, Netflix (does anyone need this for Netflix?) Hulu, and more. However, while Youtube and Netflix natively have a dark mode nowadays, this actually dims the webpage on any website with HTML5 video, making it much more useful than the review above suggested.
Moreover, you can change the opacity and color of the surrounding area behind said video, and even dim the page upon clicking ‘Play’ and “undim” it when you click ‘Pause’. Honestly, this gives any video a movie theater-like feel that Youtube simply does not give. Needless to say, I like it. What’s really caught my attention though, is its other features.
One in particular that I didn’t really expect to find with the extension was a comprehensive and fairly well-thought-out dark mode for all websites. Instead of having to toggle a cheesy dark theme at the top of your browser, Turn Off the Lights places a clean toggle at the bottom-left of every website, and flicking it gives one of the best dark modes I’ve seen on any extension to date.
What’s more, is that this is completely customizable – down to the ability to choose its colors and which websites it activates on. In fact, there are loads of settings as you can see below, and they’re all presented in a clean and modern way. I’d long thought this extension had been left in the dust, but it’s certainly adapted and changed with the times based on the needs of its users.
For Youtube, there are highly advanced toggles to determine what appears from the webpage through your theater mode, such as the like button, playlists, suggestions, and more, an option to automatically toggle the quality of videos (this seems to bypass Youtube’s new decision to automatically downgrade of my quality based on my internet), and even automatically setting the video player size to large right as it loads up.
Alright, listen to this – two of the most innovative features that took me by surprise were the ability to dim a webpage while you’re playing a video by using your camera and performing the hand gestures you see below. Yep, you’re reading that right – you can dim the lights by pretending to close a window or pull the curtains closed with ‘Camera Motion’ – isn’t that insane? Oh, you can also use your microphone and say things like ‘Hey browser, turn off the lights’, or ‘Hey browser, play video’.
While I still can’t get over how cool these features are, I realize that many people may not want to give an extension access to their camera and microphone for simple tasks like this, so it does have some hurdles to overcome. The other hurdle, as previously mentioned is its marketing strategy. Overall, I think Turn Off the Lights is a great extension with a great name, but it set in stone what users expect of it a long time ago thanks to its immense popularity, and must now overcome that.
The developers have gone all out with features like showing how many watt-hours (Wh) of energy you’ve saved by ‘Turning off the lights’ as well as other analytics, the ability to change the video’s volume with just your mouse wheel, dynamic backgrounds, and even an odd, yet interesting ‘Atmosphere Lighting’ which takes the video that’s playing and blurs its colors outward to create an extended theatrical effect (I really dislike this).
Despite all of that, no one of these features is what makes the extension worth trying out. Instead, I believe that the dev’s dedication to continually innovating and iterating on something that began as a simple extension to dim the web page has evolved into an impressive and feature-packed browser toolkit for entertainment, and that alone is worth an install in 2021.
If you’re looking for a lightweight extension that does any one of the aforementioned things and nothing more, Turn Off the Lights may not be for you. Then again, all of its additional settings and features are hidden away, so you could simply use what you want and ignore the rest. However, if you’re looking to spice up your video watching and web browsing experience on your Chromebook or elsewhere, I think you may be fairly impressed with the complete overhaul of the product that has so lovingly received what seem to be countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears because Turn Off the Lights no longer just flicks a light switch like it used to.