Why are Web Developers Hostile to Audio?

Web developers refuse to integrate audio in their applications. Why?

I like to talk and write about Web Audio. It can be a fun topic. However, most talks and demos fail to touch on anything useful. Sure, we can build drum machines and sequencers to our heart’s content, but how does this apply to 90% of the web? It doesn’t. Thus, when I speak or write about web audio it seems to draw a niche audience.

However, recently I have been on a mission to talk and write about how web developers can use web audio to enhance their applications in practical and useful ways. The frequent response I get is like the one below:

I hate audio on the web

You gotta love social media because not only did this person make it clear he never bothered to read the article, but 5 people (which on Google Plus is like everyone) gave it a plus one. However, leaving aside those issues, why are web developers so outright hostile and dismissive to even the suggestion of using audio on the web that they aren’t even willing to discuss it or hear arguments as to how it could be useful?

Let’s recap:

  • Audio in game UI equals totally expected;
  • Audio in mobile app UI equals acceptable;
  • Audio in desktop app UI equals legitimate, within reason;
  • Audio in web apps equals ARE YOU INSANE?!?!

I have a theory as to why.

The Legacy of Years of Misuse

I expressed this In the early days of the web, we didn’t have the web audio API. What we had was site’s that got clever and used MIDI or, even worse, had some obnoxious “Hamster Dance” like audio.

Hamster Dance

Then came years of Flash Intros and more useless audio. It became ingrained in web developers’ heads that audio on the web was purely a gimmick. It is such a widely accepted “faux pas” to include audio, that even the mention of carefully considering audio brings strong reactions.

It’s Time to Let It Go

But do we have to be held back today by the misdeeds of years ago? Sure, the web audio API can be misused. Sure, so far, we’ve mostly shown how it can be used for things like 8 bit video game music (guilty as charged) and web-based drum machines. (Not that those things are useful, even purely as excercises in having some fun with your programming skills, they are beneficial.) The point is, though, this doesn’t negate there being useful and practical ways to integrate audio into your web application. If it’s ok for every other type of application, why not the web?

Unlike the commenter above, perhaps you’ll give my full article a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.