back to article Apple eyes patent for web silence

Apple wants to give you the opportunity to selectively block web-based audio while allowing you to listen to any other audio source of your choosing. In a filing released Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple detailed plans for equipping a web browser with the ability to apply controls to audio streaming in …


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  1. Adam Foxton
    Jobs Halo

    Could be useful

    You know what, for once I can't think of anything bad about an Apple idea. Wonder if they'll ever make it.

    And to pre-empt the inevitable rush of people saying they've got a mute button on their laptop, this could be really useful on annoying sites with things that click or beep or fthwang when you still want to listen to music. In fact I think I'd keep it to "mute" pretty much all the time.

  2. David Simpson

    Ummm just like Vista ?

    OMG what a cutting edge feature, it's just like Vista's ability to mute individual programs from the volume menu, LOL go Apple continuing to patent other peoples ideas.

  3. Chris Wood
    Gates Halo

    Already possible in Vista?

    Well, on Vista you can set the volume of applications independently of the master volume from the standard volume control widget. Regardless of whether you run IE, Firefox or god-forbid Safari on Vista you could mute your browser and leave all other audio alone.

    Seems like Microsoft have an elegant solution here already.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Prior art?

    I think this will probably be the only time I can say that Microsoft beat Apple to a UI design idea... Windows Vista and 7 have had the option to set volume controls for individual programs for several years. The best part, of course, is that you can silence your web browser. It doesn't have the fine grained control to only mute certain URLs, but that's a pretty obvious extension once you move the volume control into the web brower. This is really the sort of thing that should come out of app design 101, but noone really wants to put much effort into that.

    Having said that, I'm sure the patent office will be happy to grant this patent, as they don't seem to know how to look for prior art and not grant silly patents anymore.

  5. Paul
    Paris Hilton


    Is there anything that the Great uberLord Jobs won't try and patent. Next it'll be an artificial finger for keyboards for lazy *tards that can't be bothered to use the volume control in the setting. Oh, wait, that would be the average MacBorker as unless Jobs says you can do it, you can't on his kit.

    Paris cos' she's always worth a finger.

  6. Richard
    Thumb Up

    Well done, Apple

    I don't know if it's patent-worthy, but once again, Apple applies for a patent with an idea that makes me slap my forehead and think "Now why the heck didn't I think of that?"

  7. Bob
    Jobs Horns

    Wanted it yesterday, but...

    what happened to the "non-obvious" test for patents? Just about every application that emits sound has an audio control, it doesn't take a genius to think of slapping one on a web browser as well.

  8. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Already done?

    Opera allows you to edit the preferances globally and per-site for content, including sound in web pages and those irritating animated GIFs. So they finally caught up?

  9. Law


    should have patented this myself when I thought of it 9 years ago!! ffs...

  10. Steven Hunter
    Thumb Up

    Already exists...

    In the form of the Flashblock and "Stop Autoplay" Firefox add-ons.

    But I DO appreciate the sentiment. I can't stand all those jumpy animated adverts they have these days. And the ones with sound can just go right straight to hell.

  11. Christoph


    The Windows volume control in the system tray has a mute button.

    The various individual sound sources within the Windows volume control each have an individual mute button.

    Every media player I've seen has a mute button.

    Exactly what is original and patentable about the idea of having a mute button?

  12. Hywel Thomas


    Handy for private browsing. I expect.

  13. Sampler
    Jobs Horns

    Why patent?

    All Apple seems to do - prevent anyone else from making a decent product so they can charge shitloads for it - this in itself is "fairly obvious" and should fail patent application because of that - but it won't

    - pissed off windows user who can't have multi-touch...

  14. Nathan Margason

    Why limit this to just the browser?

    Why limit this to just the browser? It would be great if this were a standard window control widget throughout the desktop OSX. It could be up in the title bar just like the close-minimize-resize buttons. Then we'd have convenient granular volume control throughout the OS = much happiness.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Rarely indeed...

    Rarely do we see a patent filing that makes us say, "This is really novel!" Because this one certainly isn't.

  16. dj

    Thank you, Apple

    They can't implement this soon enough. It's very annoying when web pages blare unasked for music at you. Now if they could just incorporate a way to selectively turn off video as well....

  17. Kasper Loopstra
    Thumb Down

    Now it's patented

    And if Google, Mozilla or MS implement this, they'll get sued.

  18. An ominous cow herd
    Thumb Down

    Another app

    So, it's just to add a function to another kind of app... Why does it deserve a patent? If M$ adds volume control to text-to-speech in Office, will they also patent it? How is it diferent from the Apple one?

    It's b0ll0cks!

  19. Pirate Dave Silver badge


    Audio controls in a web browser are so novel that they need a patent? Man, our (US) patent system is certainly broken irrepairably.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "Rarely do we see a patent filing that makes us say, "I want that yesterday!" This one does."

    We had it yesterday, take a look at Vista's (and Win7's) volume control - application specific, Internet Explorer/Firefox/Opera/Safari/Chrome - mute, WinAmp, full volume! Before you shoot me down - it may need the audio to start playing before it shows in the volume control - in which case it's crap, I don't know, I'm a Linux "fanboi". :-)

    It is a good idea though, and a welcome one, but a patent for a volume control in a browser...? Pretty much all Flash video players have volume control ... in the browser - prior art? or a future law suit? I just don't like software patents.

    Ultimately though, those of us who really don't want to be annoyed while browsing will install Firefox and noscript, and have a hosts file blocking ad sites.

    Paris ... well ... I imagine she's better with the sound off too.

  21. James Robertson

    annoying website noise

    put me 1st in line, for this one, great idea

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good Idea, but new?

    I think this is a great idea but how different is blocking audio sources vs. blocking cookies? Konqueror has long been able to block cookies selectively. Have long wished for same in Safari.

  23. Matthew
    Thumb Down

    Who cares?

    You want this yesterday? I thought we all HAD this yesterday. Every computer has a mute button (be it in hardware or software) and if a web site has annoying ads with audio that play by default, they instantly make the "web sites I don't visit anymore" short list. This looks like a solution looking for a problem to me.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    From their patent screenshot... looks like Apple's done a bit of a redesign. Taking clean and simple to a new level, there, jobs! Good on ya!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    All you need is adblock plus

    I also agree with the fact it is a ripoff of a feature in vista.

  26. MnM

    IT Will Eat Itself

    Well I've just patented the blow job. It includes and is limited to the heterosexual blow job, so if there are any gay guys out there who want to go for a homo version, bingo. Henceforth all straight blow jobs must be performed upon me and me alone. I'm not licensing this baby, nooo way, especially to my mates, they can all FOAD.

  27. Troy Alan
    Thumb Down

    Too bad Apple thought of this...

    Admittedly, this is one of the best new browser features I've seen to date. Unfortunately, Apple was the one to think it up, and now has a patent application in place. For those who haven't thought about this, it means that only Apple's web browsers will be able to use this feature, unless they allow other browser manufactureres to license the technology from them (Something neither side is likely to do).

    Thunms down to Apple for once again making useful technology proprietary.

  28. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Good idea, I have a solution though.

    This sounds like a great idea. I have a solution already though -- adblock. I don't block agressively, so I still have most banner ads etc (web site runners need their revenue after all), but I block ANY ad site that serves ads that make noise or forces popups past the popup blocking firefox already has. There's not very many that are that greasy so I didn't have to block much.

  29. James O'Brien

    @Kasper Loopstra

    Chances are it would be dismissed due to prior art....then again this is the States and it might not be...

    (This comment format has been patented by me as of today. Now im going to sue everyone.)

    /oh the hell with it I am not awake enough to try to make a funny this afternoon

  30. Chris
    Thumb Down


    euummm ever heard of foxy tunes? Available on IE and FF and it basically does what apple says... and its free!!!!

    I got an idea for a patent for apple why dont they patent the on off button? They would become the richest company in the world if that were to be approved and knowing the us patent system it probably would

  31. jake Silver badge

    Prior Art?

    Seriously, does anybody actually leave their volume on on a general, day to day basis? I probably un-mute once a week or so. Maybe every ten days. By my estimation, that is "selectively block(ing) web-based audio while allowing you to listen to any other audio source of your choosing", isn't it?

    The only people I know who generally have the sound on are so-called "Web Programmers", usually children under 26 who took an HTML course once. These are the dimwits that "produce" the all singing, all dancing, cookie-cutter, ransom-note, LSD flashback inducing web pages that anyone with a central nervous system never returns to again ... But I digress.

  32. John
    Jobs Horns


    Pulseaudio also allows you to alter the volume of apps using the device chooser and it's already the default for many linux distros including ubuntu. In fact ts also allows you to send the sound from an individual app (say firefox up to its eyes in noisy adverts) over the network to another computer for them to hear it ;)

    Adam Foxton

    "You know what, for once I can't think of anything bad about an Apple idea. Wonder if they'll ever make it."

    err what about the fact they are trying to patent the idea rather than releasing it and benefiting everyone

    Rik Myslewski

    "Apple wants to give you the opportunity to selectively block web-based audio while allowing you to listen to any other audio source of your choosing."

    No they want to give apple users or more generously safari users the opportunity and prevent anyone else.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    I didn't realise there were so many patent lawyers...

    ...that read this site.

    A few observations.

    1. If, as a few of you point out, this is so obvious/not that inventive, why didn't you do it? This is NOT PRIOR ART.

    2. Where are the volume control and mute button in IE7? For that matter, where are they in Firefox, Opera, Chrome and IE 8? Just because there is an ability to mute/control the volume of an individual app in Vista doesn't make it prior art, especially since the control is via a completely . Unless you are telling me that IE 8 is integrated into Windows AND is available on at least one other OS. This is NOT PRIOR ART.

    People, some of the IT knowledge that crops up here is astounding, in both senses, but please stick to what you you know - which clearly isn't patent law. Rather than foaming at the mouth and ranting against Apple, READ WHAT IS REPORTED. Digest it. Try to understand it. If you don't understand it (patent law *isn't* as black and white as you think/make out) kindly keep your opnions to yourself. It's not as if Apple are the only one's that do this! I'd argue that they're not even the worst. But hey, why change the rhetoric?

  34. Thomas

    To be applauded

    For further speeding the reform of software patents, I hope.

  35. Gareth Lowe


    I love these people talking about how Vista already has already invented per application volume controls as if they weren't in BeOS 10 years ago.

  36. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Lawyers to standby: w have an incoming claim.

    I really hope thar John Cage's copyright-lawyers are on the case: they can undoubtedly sue Apple for unauthorised reproduction of part of Cage's seminal silent 4′33″ !!

  37. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    on both obviousness, and prior art.


    On Firefox: preferences>Applications, set everything to 'Always Ask'

    Job done!

  38. jai

    in Vista? oh really?

    that is interesting, cos Apple filed the patent in November 2007

    so can Apple now sell the patent to some two-bit pointless company in Texas who'll then sue Microsoft for every version of Vista under the sun... oh that's right, there aren't many so it's not worth it

  39. Charles Manning

    Utility patent or design patent?

    There is certainly sufficient prior art to prevent this being a broad-based utility patent (one for the basic idea). Individual and prioritized volume controls have been around for ages in all sorts of kit.

    What they can likely make stick is a design patent (one that protects the ornamental appearance) since most OSX stuff has a distinctive "Apple look".

  40. Eddy Ito
    Jobs Horns


    A patent for something that should have been there already? I wonder, would coding a volume control on a web page violate this patent application? If this gets approved it will only show the U.S. patent orifice isn't worth the shit it's made of.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Slightly different to normal mute

    Wow - the Apple haters are out in force on this one!

    Yes, all computers have normal mute buttons - but these aren't all that useful for when you are using your computer to listen to tunes whilst browsing the internet. Websites with noise will still interupt the music experience.

    And yes, Vista also has a way of turning off / down the volume on Firefox / explorer etc. However it isn't as easy to do as this and it is also universal. So I wouldn't be able to have an internet radio station loaded up in Firefox and playing in the background whilst using Firefox to browse sites that have music / ads coming up.

    I'm not a fanboi by any measure - but this is an excellent idea. Not sure about its patentability though - but that is a different argument.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Solution to US patents ?

    Your options include:

    1) Do not trade in the US.

    2) Get bought by someone who owns lots of patents in the US.

    3) Get screwed by someone who owns lots of patents in the US.

    Did I miss any?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To all the Apple haters

    I'm always having a lot of fun reading comments on any story talking about an Apple technology or innovation. Most of the Win/Linux crowd screams out the typical "We've had this for years." Like it or not, Apple have flair for making computers fun and easy to use. How many windows users have ever double clicked on the tray volume widget to notice that you could have per/application volume controls?

    It's not about the technology, or the engineering wizardry. It's about how easy and obvious you make it.

    When someone makes computers easy to use, that, to me, is true innovation.

  44. Will

    @"in Vista? oh really?"

    "that is interesting, cos Apple filed the patent in November 2007"

    You act as if Vista began development after November 2007...

  45. jake Silver badge

    @AC 22:53

    "Yes, all computers have normal mute buttons - but these aren't all that useful for when you are using your computer to listen to tunes whilst browsing the internet. Websites with noise will still interupt the music experience."

    'sfunny ... I can turn all my computers off (except TheBoxThatNeverSleeps, because it never sleeps), and wonder of wonders! All my tunes are still available! Ever hear of dedicated audio gear? For that matter, have any of you kids in the iPodGeneration(tm) ever heard what real audio sounds like? Probably not ... it would explain why most of the crap on the radio sounds as bad as it does. And before anyone says anything about old fuddy-duddies, I've currently got SoCalledTragedy's "Perfume of Pain" pounding thru' my aging Boston Acoustic studio monitors :-)

  46. Adrian Esdaile
    Jobs Horns

    Patently stupid

    Just to warn everyone...

    I've just patented the colours FFFFFF and 000000 as used in web browsers, by tradmarking those letter combinations.

    Royalties in the marked bucket, thanks.

    *cough* Apple? I notice your logo is FFFFFF? That will be... hmmm... make up a number... multiply by 4.... $eleventy billion, please.

  47. Tristan Young
    Thumb Down

    Patent something with prior art

    Apple is stupid.

    I've already seen this, and it's old. I hope the patent doesn't get approved - it should be invalidated by lots of prior art, and obviousness.

    Linear volume controls aren't new - I already have that with Ubuntu 9.04, and a host of other Windows apps.

  48. jai

    re: @"in Vista? oh really?"

    but obviously Microsoft haven't got a patent for it - if they developed this function for Vista before then, surely they'd have patented it first?

    but also Apple thought of this in 2007

    yet i do not see it in Safari yet - not even the betas for version4

    so were they waiting for the patent to become public before implementing it? or more likely, it's just another Apple patent that's never going to be turned into anything the user gets to use

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last act of a desperate company

    Patent as many ideas as possible and hope at least some of them stick. At least that way they may still have some kind of revenue stream from licensing now they have run out of ideas. Apples recent spate of applying for ridiculous patents shows just how much they are panicking without Jobs at the helm. Even the board can see the money drying up soon, despite the last couple of years of healthy sales.

  50. Juan Inamillion
    Thumb Up

    It might help if some of you read and understood the filing.

    <sigh> Quite sad really the number of people here who very clearly don't understand what's going on here.

    This is not about having a simple mute or volume control on an app or device. It's about having total control of audio on a selected device by regulating the volume of the source with respect to it's environment.

    For instance: you're listening to your favourite internet radio station (browser, player - doesn't matter what) when you open a video clip that someone's sent you. The browser can mute the radio and play the video then go back to the radio when finished. Of course you could just hit the pause or mute button in the radio but how much easier and less intrusive is it that the browser just takes care of business?

    Read that again. It's not about having simple mute or volume control in an app.

    The idea of patenting this kind of thing is an altogether more philosophical question that probably can't be discussed by several folk here without apoplexy kicking in.

    Calm down dear, it's only (a) commercial....

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Nice idea.

    Thanks for documenting it for us Apple.

    As we have no respect for software patents we will release a FireFox patch shortly for the RoW markets. That way, Americans can pay whilst everyone else gets it for free.

    Please feel free to document more ideas.

  52. TeeCee Gold badge
    Jobs Horns

    Here's a thing.

    I see that nobody's patented taking off-the shelf PC parts, shoving them in a designer casing and charging ripoff prices for the result.

    My retirement plan is to take out that very patent and sue the shit out of Apple for infringing it.

  53. MnM

    @Juan Inamillion

    More like ten a penny ;)

    Agree that many posters have misunderstood what Apple is getting at, but I think it's because they've lost patience.

    We had a school computer room full of Macs in the mid-eighties, which could do all sorts of new and cool stuff, and the demos of music sampling and realtime manipulation saw them cooed over at parents evenings. I'm not sure but I doubt they sought patents, it would have already existed in music studios, but they brought it to the desktop and implemented it and impressed people and made a reputation and sales (actually not so sure about sales).

    What have they done this time? A holistic volume control. Hardly photoshop or file compression. Car stereos can mute a radio when a call comes in. Attempting to patent, successful or not, is utter, utter bollocks and massively compromises their image as design leaders.

    Maybe it's a response to faster development cycles, but a good company would innovate faster, and not expend effort trying to slow everyone else down. Agree with AC above, it smacks of desperation.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Wintards have totally missed the point

    If I am listening to a tune in one browser window, I can't navigate away from that page to look at other browser windows, can I?

    So if I open a new window and go to some page that also tries to play music, muting the entire browser using the volume control in Vista isn't going to help me is it?


  55. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    RE Wintards have totally missed the point

    At least try and have some understanding about what you are talking about. In Vista not only can I use the mixer to control the volume of each instance of a browser, I can flick between tabs in firefox and control the volume of each individual tab.


  56. Joe K
    Paris Hilton

    Fuckin america

    Can i patent the "submit" button.

    Oh and i'll have that "Post comment" button too, oh just give me the <post> HTML tag while i'm at it.

    /even Paris thinks this is fucking stupid

  57. Will

    re: Fuckin america

    Hate to rain on your parade but HTML doesn't have a <post> tag ;)

  58. John Savard

    More Prior Art

    Even in IE 7 running on XP, I noticed in Internet Options that I had "Play sounds in webpages" unchecked. Of course, that isn't quite the same as a volume control, and Vista's idea of managing applications individually is a very good one.

  59. This post has been deleted by its author

  60. system

    RE: Prior art?

    Never mind Vista, take a look at, the W3C User Agent Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 dated 12 September 2001.

    1. Allow global configuration of the volume of all rendered audio, with an option to override audio volumes specified by the author or user agent defaults.

    2. Allow the user to choose zero volume (i.e., silent).

    Next week - Apple attempts to patent HTML.

  61. ratfox
    Thumb Down

    The only question is...

    Why the HECK hasn't this been standard for ages?

    OY, Mozilla?!! Where's that volume control I've wanted since 2002??

    I sure hope Apple cannot patent it, because then I would be forced to use Safari.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    Pulseaudio in Linux is prior art.

    Pulseaudio in Linux (Fedora 9/10) has done all the "claims" for some time already.

    Can send audiostreams to another computer over any network.

    Can mute and change volume level in any application or Flash-application separately.

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