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If you use a laptop or desktop PC a lot, the dedicated keys that control volume and other elements of your media can come in pretty handy, as they're often easier to find and use than the on-screen buttons that perform the same functions. However, while these keys can often be used in apps that are dedicated to media, web browsers have historically lacked the ability to detect them and use them properly.

However, ZDNet reports that the browser issue may no longer be a problem, at least for users of Google Chrome (download for iOS or Android). In version 73 of the browser slated for release next month, it will finally recognize media keys on your keyboard to let you control media that's streaming in the browser.

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If you want to check out this feature ahead of its release to the general public, it's available in the beta test version of Chrome for Windows and MacOS, and in Chrome Canary, the latter of which is more like a sturdy alpha.

With this update, you'll be able to use dedicated keys to play, pause, seek and cycle through tracks within the Chrome browser, in addition to the volume keys that affect the whole operating system.

And interestingly, the browser tab containing the media does not have to be in the foreground for this new key support to work; you can have the media playing in a background tab while you do something else.

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Chrome 73 will also come with a Media Session API -- a software toolkit that will let developers integrate Chrome's new media support into their websites. That indicates that media keys won't work automatically; they have to be supported by the website first, via this new API (application programming interface).

In theory, this API would let Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services give you enhanced keyboard controls, and the user would now have a method to control media that works the same across all such services -- rather than you having to know the layouts of different sets of on-screen buttons for each streaming website.

Takeaways

  • ZDNet spotted an update about the next version of the Google Chrome browser, wherein it will let you use the media keys on your keyboard to control the playback of media within a browser tab.
  • This new feature won't necessarily work automatically; Google is releasing a Media Session API to help web developers integrate media key recognition into their websites.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.