Federal election regulators voted Thursday to allow Google to proceed with a plan to make it easier for campaign emails to bypass spam filters. Google’s proposal to run a pilot project changing the filters for political emails came after intense Republican criticism that spam filters were biased against conservatives, a charge the tech giant denies. In a sign of public disgust with spam, the Federal Election Commission received thousands of public comments urging it to deny the request. But a majority of the six-member commission decided that Google’s project did not constitute an improper in-kind political contribution that would violate federal campaign finance laws. This reminds me of Twitter admitting it won’t ban nazis because that would mean banning accounts of Republican politicians. I remember the days being biased against nazis was a good thing. Times sure do change.
If you look around Google’s Mountain View, CA offices, you’ll see Windows machines, Chromebooks, Macs — and gLinux desktops. G what, you ask? Well, in addition to relying on Linux for its servers, Google has its very own Linux desktop distribution. You can’t get it — darn it! — but for more than a decade, Google has been baking and eating its own homemade Linux desktop distribution. The first version was Goobuntu. It’s not news that Google has it’s own in-house desktop Linux distribution, but this article provides some interesting insights into some of its unique aspects. The latest versions now use a rolling release model based on Debian, with a custom automated package building and testing tool on top, developed by Google. I’d love to see it in action and have it released to the public.
We’ve been tracking the progress of Google’s interface refresh for Gmail since February, and as promised, the company says it’s now becoming available for all Gmail users. The rework pulls Meet, Chat, and Spaces closer together as part of the overall experience and includes elements from Google’s Material Design 3. It’s not stopping there and says that, later this year, we should see improvements to Gmail for tablet users, better emoji support, and more accessibility features, among other upgrades. I don’t like the Gmail web experience at all, and the changes over the recent years have done little to change my mind. I’m old-fashioned and prefer proper email applications that are fast, native, and integrate with my wider computing environments.
Today, we’re excited to announce that ChromeOS Flex, the cloud-first, easy-to-manage, and fast operating system for PCs and Macs, is now ready for your fleet. Just like too much sun, software bloat, clunky hardware, and security vulnerabilities can cause unwanted damage. Thankfully, ChromeOS Flex is just the sunscreen your legacy devices need. And thanks to everyone who has participated in our early access program, we’ve been able to significantly improve the product in many areas while continuously certifying devices to run ChromeOS Flex. ChromeOS Flex is effectively ChromeOS for everyone who doesn’t want to buy ChromeOS hardware, based on Google’s acquisition of CloudReady. There are various community projects that offer the same, but having an official offering from Google is great for organisations and companies.
Public code reviews started this week on Qt platform support for Google’s Chromium open-source browser code. It looks like Google is at least evaluating the prospects of Qt toolkit support for the Chromium/Chrome UI. Chrome might get a Qt-based UI option before it even gets video decoding acceleration on Linux that doesn’t require custom builds or hacks. Possibly good news for KDE users.
The long-awaited availability of Steam on Chromebooks was just more or less announced (in alpha) at the 2022 Google for Games Developer Summit. That said, Google is light on availability details for the moment. Google specifically said that the “Steam Alpha just launched, making this longtime PC game store available on select Chromebooks for users to try.” That said, no other details appear to be live this morning, but we did reveal the device list last month. I’m sure many Chromebooks are more than powerful enough to play a meaningful number of games.
The popular Vanced YouTube app is being discontinued, after a legal threat from Google. The creators of Vanced have revealed the project will be shut down in the coming days, with download links set to be removed. While the app will continue to work for anyone who currently has it installed on Android, without any future updates it’s likely to stop working at some point soon. The Vanced owners say they’ve had to discontinue the project “due to legal reasons.” Google sent the Vanced owners a cease and desist letter recently, which has forced the developers to stop distributing and developing the app. “We were asked to remove all references to ‘YouTube’, change the logo, and remove all links related to YouTube products,” says an admin from the Vanced team in a Discord message to The Verge. The most surprising thing for me is not that Google shut Vanced down, but that it took them this long. YouTube with ads is a terrible user experience, so I pay for YouTube Premium to get rid of them, but obviously, not everyone has the means to do so, be it financially or because of some inane Google restriction. Vanced offered a great alternative for these people. With Google trying ever harder to monetise the hell out of YouTube views, it was only a matter of time before it would go after Vanced. In the past few months, I noticed a considerable uptick in mentions of and references to the application, and Google probably noticed too.
Google’s homegrown Fuchsia operating system has taken another step closer to being broadly usable by gaining the full Google Chrome browser experience. It’s been possible to access the web in a very limited way on Fuchsia for quite some time now via the operating system’s “Simple Browser” app – which was powered by the Chromium engine under the hood. While usable, this “browser” didn’t offer the usual necessities like an address bar or tabs. Mid last year, we reported that Google had begun efforts to bring the full Chrome browser experience to Fuchsia. As first spotted by oldschool-51 of Fuchsia’s Reddit community, these efforts have come to fruition in recent days, with Simple Browser being replaced in Fuchsia’s app list with “Chromium.” It’s steps like these that show that Google is serious about Fuchsia. For whatever that’s worth.
Today, we’re excited to announce early access to a new version of Chrome OS bringing the benefits of Chrome OS to PCs and Macs. Chrome OS Flex is the cloud-first, fast, easy-to manage, and secure operating system for PCs and Macs. Learn more below, try it out, and share your feedback to help us shape this product. It’s basically Chrome OS for any PC or Mac you might have lying around. Other parties offered similar Chrome OS-based systems for non-Chromebook hardware, but this is the first time Google itself offers it as a first-class citizen of the Chrome OS ecosystem.
Well, that didn’t take long. There is hope for users of Google’s “legacy” free G Suite accounts. Last week, Google announced a brutal policy change—it would shut down the Google Apps accounts of users who signed up during the first several years when the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account were given two options: start paying the per-user monthly fee by July 2022 or lose your account. Naturally, this move led to a huge outcry outside (and apparently inside) Google, and now, the company seems to be backing down from most of the harsher terms of the initial announcement. First, Google is launching a survey of affected G Suite users—apparently, the company is surprised by how many people this change affected. Second, it’s promising a data-migration option (including your content purchases) to a consumer account before the shutdown hits. This migration option is all we’ve ever wanted, for years now. We’ve been asking Google over and over to give us this option, because those affected had seen the writing on the wall years ago. It highlights just how incompetent Google is at customer feedback that they were at all surprised by this in any way.
In 2020, G Suite became Google Workspace as part of a mass reorganization of the company’s apps for the “future of work.” Various plans were migrated over, and Google is now finally getting rid of the G Suite legacy free edition. “Google Apps” for businesses and schools were introduced 16 years ago and was discontinued in 2012. However, the company made no significant changes to those free accounts in the past decade, until today. In an email to administrators this morning, Google said it “will now transition all remaining users to an upgraded Google Workspace paid subscription based on your usage.” As such, Workspace’s only free plans are for Nonprofits and Education (Fundamentals). After getting free Gmail, Drive, Docs, and other apps for the past several years, companies/people will need to start paying for those Google services and the ability to use your own custom domain (instead of just gmail.com). OSNews happens to be an organisation that started out using the original Google Apps for Your Domain, and over the years, we’ve been migrated left, right, and centre through the various iterations and rebrandings of Google’s collection of services for organisations. We are one of the accounts that have been grandfathered into the current Google Workspace stuff, but we never had a choice – Google just migrated you. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you, as I have done over the past several years, find out that tons of Google services, and specific features of services, are not available to you. The reasoning here is that while Google Apps for Your Domain originally started out a service for individuals, families, and small organisations, it eventually grew into this massive corporate software suite where it perhaps makes sense to limit certain services and features. Because Google originally advertised this collection of services as much for personal accounts as it did for organisational accounts, many people, including myself, never could have anticipated our personal accounts would be forcibly turned into corporate accounts, which come with the aforementioned limitations. I can’t set calendar appointments through Google Assistant, for instance, which is annoying since we use Google Home devices. I cannot invite my fiancée to become a member of our household and control our lights and other Google Home devices through her account and phone. I cannot use Google Stadia (not that I’d want to, but still). And that’s just a small selection. Why don’t we just migrate to a regular Google account, you ask? Well, because it’s not possible. Google offers no way to either change an account from what is now Google Workspace into a personal account, nor does Google offer the ability to migrate all your accounts’ data, settings, emails, and so on from a Workspace account into a new personal account. Unless we throw everything out the window, or painstakingly move over every tiny bit of data for every single service manually, we’re going to be stuck. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of Google to ask that we old, grandfathered accounts pay for their services. That’s fine. What is not fine, however, is slowly locking us into stunted, limited accounts, after advertising it as a personal service for years.
Alphabet unit Google lost an appeal against a 2.42-billion-euro ($2.8-billion) antitrust decision on Wednesday, a major win for Europe’s competition chief in the first of three court rulings central to the EU push to regulate big tech. Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager fined the world’s most popular internet search engine in 2017 over the use of its own price comparison shopping service to gain an unfair advantage over smaller European rivals. The shopping case was the first of three decisions that saw Google rack up 8.25 billion euros in EU antitrust fines in the last decade. Good.
In the years leading up to that launch, we’ve uncovered signs of the Fuchsia team developing support for a variety of Google devices, including the Nest Hub Max, 2021’s second-gen Nest Hub, and more. Now, it seems, Google is ready to make its next steps more public, in a series of job listings posted this week, some of which reference a “Fuchsia Devices” team. The job listings even make references to working with partners using Fuchsia, so there’s definitely more afoot for Google’s new operating system.
Google has been illegally underpaying thousands of temporary workers in dozens of countries and delayed correcting the pay rates for more than two years as it attempted to cover up the problem, the Guardian can reveal. Google executives have been aware since at least May 2019 that the company was failing to comply with local laws in the UK, Europe and Asia that mandate temporary workers be paid equal rates to full-time employees performing similar work, internal Google documents and emails reviewed by the Guardian show. But rather than immediately correct the errors, the company dragged its feet for more than two years, the documents show, citing concern about the increased cost to departments that rely heavily on temporary workers, potential exposure to legal claims, and fear of negative press attention. Another severe case of theft nobody will go to jail for.
Currently, you would probably rank Google’s offerings behind every other big-tech competitor. A lack of any kind of top-down messaging leadership at Google has led to a decade and a half of messaging purgatory, with Google both unable to leave the space altogether and unable to commit to a single product. While companies like Facebook and Salesforce invest tens of billions of dollars into a lone messaging app, Google seems content only to spin up an innumerable number of under-funded, unstable side projects led by job-hopping project managers. There have been periods when Google briefly produced a good messaging solution, but the constant shutdowns, focus-shifting, and sabotage of established products have stopped Google from carrying much of these user bases—or user goodwill—forward into the present day. Because no single company has ever failed at something this badly, for this long, with this many different products (and because it has barely been a month since the rollout of Google Chat), the time has come to outline the history of Google messaging. Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for a non-stop rollercoaster of new product launches, neglected established products, unexpected shut-downs, and legions of confused, frustrated, and exiled users. This is delightfully depressing.
More owners of the first-generation Nest Hub are Google Fuchsia update is rolling out widely to 1st-gen Nest Hubs as it expands beyond the Preview program. Back in May, Google formally released Fuchsia, its effort to develop a “not Linux” operating system from scratch, which has been years in the making. The first device to receive the new OS was Google’s 2018 smart display, the Nest Hub — not to be confused with the second generation Nest Hub with sleep tracking released earlier this year — taking it permanently off of the existing Linux based “Cast OS” without negatively affecting the UI or experience. The rollout continues.
Every good operating system needs a web browser, especially as more and more apps move to the web. To that end, Google is preparing to bring the full Google Chrome browser experience to Fuchsia OS. This was inevitable, of course. As the article notes, Fuchsia already has the Chrome engine to display web content if needed, and now they are bringing the whole actual browser over as well. Just another step in the long journey to replace the underpinnings of Android and Chrome OS.
Despite having officially launched earlier this year, there’s still quite a bit of mystery around Google’s next operating system, Fuchsia. To help explain the most important details, two Googlers have shared a video tour and Q&A with much of what you might want to know about Fuchsia OS. This is an hour-long deep dive into Fuchsia, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. If you ever wanted to know anything about the inner workings of Google’s new operating system that seems bound to replace everything from Android to Chrome OS, this is your chance.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google was sued by three dozen states alleging that the company illegally abused its power over the sale and distribution of apps through the Google Play store on mobile devices. State attorneys general said in a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco that Google used anticompetitive tactics to thwart competition and ensure that developers have no choice but to go through the Google Play store to reach users. It then collects an “extravagant” commission of up to 30% on app purchases, the states said. These lawsuits will keep on coming, and eventually one will be won – and it’s going to send shockwaves across the industry. I can’t wait.
Today, we’re sharing the latest on the Privacy Sandbox initiative including a timeline for Chrome’s plan to phase out support for third-party cookies. While there’s considerable progress with this initiative, it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right. We plan to continue to work with the web community to create more private approaches to key areas, including ad measurement, delivering relevant ads and content, and fraud detection. Today, Chrome and others have offered more than 30 proposals, and four of those proposals are available in origin trials. For Chrome, specifically, our goal is to have the key technologies deployed by late 2022 for the developer community to start adopting them. Subject to our engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and in line with the commitments we have offered, Chrome could then phase out third-party cookies over a three month period, starting in mid-2023 and ending in late 2023. Chrome is, for some reason, the most popular browser in the world, and it sucks that Google has to delay ending support for third-party cookies. This is the price they pay for being as big and powerful as they are, since while cutting off third-party cookies won’t harm Google’s advertising business all that much, it certainly will harm the very few remaining competitors it still has. I won’t shed a single tear for any online advertising company, but I will shed a tear for the masses who still believe they’re hogtied by Chrome.