Teams Background Effects Available in Browser Clients

Closing the Browser Gap in September 2021

Message center notification MC277112 published on August 10 promised that Teams browser clients would support background effects starting in early September. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 85738. I normally use the Teams desktop clients for calls but have used the browser client with background effects successfully for several calls recently.

First, some definitions. Background effects cover both video blurring and the use of a selected background image to disguise a user’s background (often a horribly cluttered office) by isolating the image of the person and imposing it on the background image. Teams then makes the combined image available to other meeting participants. The timeline for developments in this area include the following important steps:

From the above, we can see that the Teams desktop and mobile clients support background effects. The gaps were in the Teams Linux client and browser clients. MC277112 fills the latter gap.

Sourcing Background Images

Background images come from a variety of sources:

The big gotcha with browser support of background images is that you can only choose one of the Microsoft-curated images. As you can see in Figure 1, the gallery of images contains no evidence of either organization or custom images.

Using background effects in a Teams meeting (Edge browser)
Figure 1: Using background effects in a Teams meeting (Edge browser)

The only issue I noted using the browser client is that it is less precise at “feathering” the edges of the personal with the background image. The desktop client produces cleaner edges and responds to movement of a person faster, maybe because the desktop client has better access to system resources. Or it could just be me looking for something to complain about.

I used the Edge browser (version 93.0.931.38) for testing. Microsoft doesn’t specify if any restrictions exist for other browsers. Given that the feature works with Edge, I expect no problems with Chrome, Brave, or any other Chromium-based browser.

Limited Roll-Out First

Confining browser support to the set of Microsoft-curated images isn’t surprising. Windows PCs depend on being able to access custom images stored %AppData%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads. Custom organization images are kept in an online location managed by the Teams admin center. Although it shouldn’t be too difficult to access these locations, it makes sense to roll-out background effects to browser clients in a more restricted mode. After resolving any initial teething problems, Microsoft can then update the client support to handle organization and personal custom images.

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