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Customize media notifications and playback controls with the Media Session API

Customize media notifications and playback controls with the Media Session API

How to integrate with hardware media keys, customize media notifications, and more.

Updated

To let users know what's currently playing in their browser and control it without returning to the page that launched it, the Media Session API has been introduced. It allows web developers to customize this experience through metadata in custom media notifications, media events such as playing, pausing, seeking, track changing, and video conferencing events such as mute/unmute microphone, turnon/turnoff camera, and hang up. These customizations are available in several contexts including desktop media hubs, media notifications on mobile, and even on wearable devices. I'll describe these customizations in this article.

Screenshots of Media Session contexts.
Media hub on desktop, media notification on mobile, and a wearable device.

Cross-browser support #

At the time of writing, Chrome is the only browser that supports the Media Session API both on desktop and mobile. Firefox has partial support for the Media Session API on desktop behind a flag, and Samsung Internet also has partial support. See Browser compatibility for up-to-date information.

About the Media Session API #

The Media session API provides several benefits and capabilities:

  • Hardware media keys are supported.
  • Media notifications are customized on mobile, Chrome OS, and paired wearable device.
  • The media hub is available on desktop.
  • Lock screen media controls are available on Chrome OS and mobile.
  • Picture-in-Picture window controls are available for both audio playback and video conferencing.
  • Assistant integration on mobile is available.

A few examples will illustrate some of these points.

Example 1: If users press the "next track" media key of their keyboard, web developers can handle this user action whether Chrome is in the foreground or the background.

Example 2: If users listen to a podcast on the web while their device screen is locked, they can still hit the "seek backward" icon from the lock screen media controls so that web developers move playback time backward by few seconds.

Example 3: If users have tabs playing audio, they can easily stop playback from the media hub on desktop so that web developers have a chance to clear their state.

Example 4: If users are on a video call, they can press the "toggle microphone" control in the Picture-in-Picture window to stop the website from receiving microphone data.

This is all done through two different interfaces: The MediaSession interface and the MediaMetadata interface. The first lets users control whatever's playing. The second is how you tell MediaSession what needs to be controlled.

To illustrate, the image below shows how these interfaces relate to specific media controls, in this case a media notification on mobile.

Media Session interfaces illustration.
Anatomy of a media notification on mobile.

Let users know what's playing #

When a website is playing audio or video, users automatically get media notifications either in the notification tray on mobile, or the media hub on desktop. Chrome does its best to show appropriate information by using the document's title and the largest icon image it can find. With the Media Session API, it's possible to customize the media notification with some richer media metadata such as the title, artist name, album name, and artwork as shown below.

Chrome requests "full" audio focus to show media notifications only when the media duration is at least 5 seconds. This ensures that incidental sounds such as dings don't show notifications.

// After media (video or audio) starts playing
await document.querySelector("video").play();

if ("mediaSession" in navigator) {
navigator.mediaSession.metadata = new MediaMetadata({
title: 'Never Gonna Give You Up',
artist: 'Rick Astley',
album: 'Whenever You Need Somebody',
artwork: [
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/96', sizes: '96x96', type: 'image/png' },
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/128', sizes: '128x128', type: 'image/png' },
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/192', sizes: '192x192', type: 'image/png' },
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/256', sizes: '256x256', type: 'image/png' },
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/384', sizes: '384x384', type: 'image/png' },
{ src: 'https://via.placeholder.com/512', sizes: '512x512', type: 'image/png' },
]
});

// TODO: Update playback state.
}

When playback ends, there is no need to "release" the media session as the notification will automatically disappear. Keep in mind that navigator.mediaSession.metadata will be used when the next playback starts though. This is why it's important to update it when the media playback source changes to make sure relevant information is shown in the media notification.

There are a few things to note about the media metadata.

  • Notification artwork array supports blob URLs and data URLs.
  • If no artwork is defined and there is an icon image (specified using <link rel=icon>) at a desirable size, media notifications will use it.
  • Notification artwork target size in Chrome for Android is 512x512. For low-end devices, it is 256x256.
  • The title attribute of the media HTML element is used in the "Now playing" macOS widget.
  • If the media resource is embedded (for example in a iframe), Media Session API information must be set from the embedded context. See snippet below.
<iframe id="iframe">
<video>...</video>
</iframe>
<script>
iframe.contentWindow.navigator.mediaSession.metadata = new MediaMetadata({
title: 'Never Gonna Give You Up',
...
});
</script>

Let users control what's playing #

A media session action is an action (for example "play" or "pause") that a website can handle for users when they interact with the current media playback. Actions are analogous to and work much the same as events. Like events, actions are implemented by setting handlers on an appropriate object, an instance of MediaSession, in this case. Some actions are triggered when users press buttons from a headset, another remote device, a keyboard, or interact with a media notification.

Screenshot of a media notification in Windows 10.
Customized media notification in Windows 10.

Because some media session actions may not be supported, it is recommended to use a try…catch block when setting them.

const actionHandlers = [
['play', () => { /* ... */ }],
['pause', () => { /* ... */ }],
['previoustrack', () => { /* ... */ }],
['nexttrack', () => { /* ... */ }],
['stop', () => { /* ... */ }],
['seekbackward', (details) => { /* ... */ }],
['seekforward', (details) => { /* ... */ }],
['seekto', (details) => { /* ... */ }],
/* Video conferencing actions */
['togglemicrophone', () => { /* ... */ }],
['togglecamera', () => { /* ... */ }],
['hangup', () => { /* ... */ }],
];

for (const [action, handler] of actionHandlers) {
try {
navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler(action, handler);
} catch (error) {
console.log(`The media session action "${action}" is not supported yet.`);
}
}

Unsetting a media session action handler is as easy as setting it to null.

try {
// Unset the "nexttrack" action handler at the end of a playlist.
navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('nexttrack', null);
} catch (error) {
console.log(`The media session action "nexttrack" is not supported yet.`);
}

Once set, media session action handlers will persist through media playbacks. This is similar to the event listener pattern except that handling an event means that the browser stops doing any default behavior and uses this as a signal that the website supports the media action. Hence, media action controls won't be shown unless the proper action handler is set.

Screenshot of the Now Playing widget in macOS Big Sur.
Now Playing widget in macOS Big Sur (requires Chrome 91).

Play / pause #

The "play" action indicates that the user wants to resume the media playback while "pause" indicates a desire to temporarily halt it.

The "play/pause" icon is always shown in a media notification and the related media events are handled automatically by the browser. To override their default behavior, handle "play" and "pause" media actions as shown below.

The browser may consider a website to not be playing media when seeking or loading for instance. In this case, override this behavior by setting navigator.mediaSession.playbackState to "playing" or "paused" to make sure the website UI stays in sync with media notification controls.

const video = document.querySelector('video');

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('play', async () => {
// Resume playback
await video.play();
});

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('pause', () => {
// Pause active playback
video.pause();
});

video.addEventListener('play', () => {
navigator.mediaSession.playbackState = 'playing';
});

video.addEventListener('pause', () => {
navigator.mediaSession.playbackState = 'paused';
});

Previous track #

The "previoustrack" action indicates that the user either wants to start the current media playback from the beginning if the media playback has a notion of beginning, or move to the previous item in the playlist if the media playback has a notion of a playlist.

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('previoustrack', () => {
// Play previous track.
});

Next track #

The "nexttrack" action indicates that the user wants to move media playback to the next item in the playlist if the media playback has a notion of a playlist.

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('nexttrack', () => {
// Play next track.
});

Stop #

The "stop" action indicates that the user wants to stop the media playback and clear the state if appropriate.

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('stop', () => {
// Stop playback and clear state if appropriate.
});

Seek backward / forward #

The "seekbackward" action indicates that the user wants to move the media playback time backward by a short period while "seekforward" indicates a desire to move the media playback time forward by a short period. In both cases, a short period means a few seconds.

The seekOffset value provided in the action handler is the time in seconds to move the media playback time by. If it is not provided (for example undefined), then you should use a sensible time (for example 10-30 seconds).

const video = document.querySelector('video');
const defaultSkipTime = 10; /* Time to skip in seconds by default */

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekbackward', (details) => {
const skipTime = details.seekOffset || defaultSkipTime;
video.currentTime = Math.max(video.currentTime - skipTime, 0);
// TODO: Update playback state.
});

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekforward', (details) => {
const skipTime = details.seekOffset || defaultSkipTime;
video.currentTime = Math.min(video.currentTime + skipTime, video.duration);
// TODO: Update playback state.
});

Seek to a specific time #

The "seekto" action indicates that the user wants to move the media playback time to a specific time.

The seekTime value provided in the action handler is the time in seconds to move the media playback time to.

The fastSeek boolean provided in the action handler is true if the action is being called multiple times as part of a sequence and this is not the last call in that sequence.

const video = document.querySelector('video');

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekto', (details) => {
if (details.fastSeek && 'fastSeek' in video) {
// Only use fast seek if supported.
video.fastSeek(details.seekTime);
return;
}
video.currentTime = details.seekTime;
// TODO: Update playback state.
});

Set playback position #

Accurately displaying the media playback position in a notification is as simple as setting the position state at an appropriate time as shown below. The position state is a combination of the media playback rate, duration, and current time.

Screenshot of lock screen media controls in Chrome OS.
Lock screen media controls in Chrome OS.

The duration must be provided and positive. The position must be positive and less than the duration. The playback rate must be greater than 0.

const video = document.querySelector('video');

function updatePositionState() {
if ('setPositionState' in navigator.mediaSession) {
navigator.mediaSession.setPositionState({
duration: video.duration,
playbackRate: video.playbackRate,
position: video.currentTime,
});
}
}

// When video starts playing, update duration.
await video.play();
updatePositionState();

// When user wants to seek backward, update position.
navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekbackward', (details) => {
/* ... */
updatePositionState();
});

// When user wants to seek forward, update position.
navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekforward', (details) => {
/* ... */
updatePositionState();
});

// When user wants to seek to a specific time, update position.
navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('seekto', (details) => {
/* ... */
updatePositionState();
});

// When video playback rate changes, update position state.
video.addEventListener('ratechange', (event) => {
updatePositionState();
});

Resetting the position state is as easy as setting it to null.

// Reset position state when media is reset.
navigator.mediaSession.setPositionState(null);

Video conferencing actions #

When the user puts their video call into a Picture-in-Picture window, the browser may display controls for the microphone and camera, and for hanging up. When the user clicks those, the website handles them through the video conferencing actions below.

Screenshot of video conferencing controls in a Picture-in-Picture window.
Video conferencing controls in a Picture-in-Picture window.

At the time of writing, video conferencing actions are available only in Chrome 92 on desktop.

Toggle microphone #

The "togglemicrophone" action indicates that the user wants to mute or unmute the microphone. The setMicrophoneActive(isActive) method tells the browser whether the website currently considers the microphone to be active.

let isMicrophoneActive = false;

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('togglemicrophone', () => {
if (isMicrophoneActive) {
// Mute the microphone.
} else {
// Unmute the microphone.
}
isMicrophoneActive = !isMicrophoneActive;
navigator.mediaSession.setMicrophoneActive(isMicrophoneActive);
});

Toggle camera #

The "togglecamera" action indicates that the user wants to turn the active camera on or off. The setCameraActive(isActive) method indicates whether the browser considers the website to be active.

let isCameraActive = false;

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('togglemicrophone', () => {
if (isCameraActive) {
// Disable the camera.
} else {
// Enable the camera.
}
isCameraActive = !isCameraActive;
navigator.mediaSession.setCameraActive(isCameraActive);
});

Hang up #

The "hangup" action indicates that the user wants to end a call.

navigator.mediaSession.setActionHandler('hangup', () => {
// End the call.
});

Samples #

Check out some Media Session samples featuring Blender Foundation and Jan Morgenstern's work.

A screencast illustrating the Media Session API.

Resources #

Last updated: Improve article