Having to close a tab with audio blaring from an auto-play ad is one of the web's greatest annoyances, but at the same time, most of us want to hear videos coming from YouTube or Netflix. How do you mute one without the other? Fortunately, there are a couple of easy solutions available.
The major browsers now let you mute tabs manually, but it can be a time-consuming process, especially if you've got dozens of tabs open and don't know where the sounds are springing from. Third-party extension make managing sound from multiple tabs much easier.
The first add-on we want to highlight is MuteLinks for Firefox. You can set up a blacklist of sites that really should have no business playing audio while leaving the option open for other tabs. You can even use wildcards and specify certain subdomains if you need to.
MuteLinks for Firefox
Pick Add-ons from the main Firefox menu, then select Options next to MuteLinks to use it. The bottom field, Blacklist sites, lets you specify sites you don't want to hear from, and the explanatory text above shows you how to specify subdomains and use special characters as wildcards.
Over on Chrome Mute Tabs by URL does a very similar job for Google's web browser and adds a whitelist. Click the extension icon, and you can type out URLs manually or use the buttons to add sites that you currently have open. To remove a site from either the whitelist or the blacklist, just delete it as you would in a text editor.
Meanwhile MuteTab is just about the most comprehensive solution for Google Chrome. You can mute specific URLs, background tabs, incognito tabs, and more besides. Click the extension icon to open it, then use the icons to the side to add sites to the blacklist or the whitelist.
MuteTab for Chrome
Select Options to see the lists that are set up and add or remove sites as required. You can set up default muting behaviour too -- for instance, if you want background tabs to always be muted unless you say otherwise, that's one of the options here.
Smart Tab Mute uses the approach of only keeping the active tab unmuted, which may work better for you, and it's available for Chrome and Firefox. It works automatically once installed. Click the Smart Tab Mute icon and choose Options from the pop-up menu if you want to specify URLs that the extension should ignore.
Those extensions should be enough to get you started but they're not the only way of tackling audio that appears out of nowhere and interrupts whatever it is you're doing. You can also try disabling auto-playing videos completely in your browser, so nothing starts until you're ready to view (and hear) it.