Chrome 73 added a small new feature whereby the media keys on your laptop’s keyboard, or your external keyboard can play/pause media that’s playing in the browser. What this means is that if you have a video playing on YouTube, or you’re watching Netflix in Chrome, the play/pause keys will be able to play/pause the video. This is a good feature but may not be something you find useful. Fortunately, it’s really easy to disable media key control in Chrome.
Disable media key control
This new feature was added in Chroem 73 and will likely be included in all foreseeable updates. The feature is enabled by default. To disable media key control in Chrome, you have to modify a flag.
Open Chrome and paste the following in the URL bar. Tap Enter.
On the Chrome Flags page, look for a flag called Hardware Media Key Handling. You can use the search bar on the Flags page to find it. Open the dropdown next to it and select Disabled from the menu. After changing the value of the flag, you’re going to have to relaunch Chrome to apply the change.
Use the Relaunch button on the Flags page. When Chrome relaunches, the media keys will no longer be intercepted by Chrome.
The media keys will then control other apps on your OS. Their behavior will differ based on the OS you’re using. If you’re running Windows 10, the volume keys will change the system volume which, even with the flag enabled, were intercepted by the OS. The play/pause button will work with media players that have added support for it e.g., Groove, Movies & TV, Spotify, Netflix, etc.
If you’re looking for a way to get Chrome to intercept the media keys and allow you to control media via your keyboard and enabling the flag isn’t doing the trick, you need to check and make sure a certain service is running on your OS. This service is the “MediaSessionService” as described in the flag’s description. By default, this service should be running but you might have stopped it and forgotten, or a problem might have occurred resulting in the service not running.
On macOs, you can check the services that are running from the Activity Monitor or, if you’re comfortable with it, the Terminal. On Windows 10, you can search for services.msc or use the Run box to open it, and look for the “MediaSessionService” service.
If you’re trying to play/pause media in Chrome via a Bluetooth headset, there’s an extension that will allow you to do just that.