Google Archive

Google Chrome will automatically play YouTube videos in PiP if you switch tabs

Google Chrome is getting a new feature that automatically plays YouTube and other videos in picture-in-picture mode (PiP) when you switch tabs or windows. Chrome’s new PiP feature is coming to desktops, including Windows 11, Windows 10, macOS and ChromeOS. If you’re watching a video on Chrome and decide to hop over to another tab, the browser will automatically place your video into a handy Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode. This new feature is similar to the “Automatically turn on picture in picture for video sites” option in Microsoft Edge Canary. This seems like another one of those “helpful” browser features you need to turn off because at random moments it’ll obscure part of the web page you’re looking at. Who is asking for features like this?

Chromebooks will get 10 years of automatic updates

Security is our number one priority. Chromebooks get automatic updates every four weeks that make your laptop more secure and help it last longer. And starting next year, we’re extending those automatic updates so your Chromebook gets enhanced security, stability and features for 10 years after the platform was released. A platform is a series of components that are designed to work together — something a manufacturer selects for any given Chromebook. To ensure compatibility with our updates, we work with all the component manufacturers within a platform (for things like the processor and Wi-Fi) to develop and test the software on every single Chromebook. Starting in 2024, if you have Chromebooks that were released from 2021 onwards, you’ll automatically get 10 years of updates. For Chromebooks released before 2021 and already in use, users and IT admins will have the option to extend automatic updates to 10 years from the platform’s release (after they receive their last automatic update). A good thing… Without any additional strings other than are already attached to a Chromebook? This can’t be. In all seriousness, ten years of updates for laptops that are often quite cheap and disposable is simply good news, and ensures that Chromebooks can be passed on for longer than they could before.

Googlers told to avoid words like ‘share’ and ‘bundle,’ US says

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is on trial in Washington DC over US allegations that it illegally maintained a monopoly in the online search business. Executives of the Mountain View, California-based behemoth have known for years that the company’s practices are under a microscope, and have encouraged its employees to avoid creating lasting records of potential problematic conduct, government lawyers allege. Googlers often communicate with one another internally using the company’s Google Chat product. Under a policy called “Communicate with Care,” the Justice Department asserts, Googlers receive training that instructs them to have sensitive conversations over chat with history off — meaning the conversation is auto-deleted after 24 hours. As far back as 2003, Google managers circulated unambiguous instructions on phrases to avoid to ensure they don’t come across like monopolists. It’s one thing that we all innately understand Google to be an abusive monopolist – it’s another thing to actually legally prove it. Antitrust hasn’t exactly been the strong suit of the US government as of late, so I’m hoping this one will turn out different than some of the other halfhearted attempts over the past few decades. We need some honest-to-god trust-busting or Bell cutters.

Google gets its way, bakes a user-tracking ad platform directly into Chrome

Don’t let Chrome’s big redesign distract you from the fact that Chrome’s invasive new ad platform, ridiculously branded the “Privacy Sandbox,” is also getting a widespread rollout in Chrome today. If you haven’t been following this, this feature will track the web pages you visit and generate a list of advertising topics that it will share with web pages whenever they ask, and it’s built directly into the Chrome browser. It’s been in the news previously as “FLoC” and then the “Topics API,” and despite widespread opposition from just about every non-advertiser in the world, Google owns Chrome and is one of the world’s biggest advertising companies, so this is being railroaded into the production builds. Google seemingly knows this won’t be popular. Unlike the glitzy front-page Google blog post that the redesign got, the big ad platform launch announcement is tucked away on the page. The blog post says the ad platform is hitting “general availability” today, meaning it has rolled out to most Chrome users. This has been a long time coming, with the APIs rolling out about a month ago and a million incremental steps in the beta and dev builds, but now the deed is finally done. Don’t use Chrome or any of its derivatives. If you care about privacy and the open web, use Firefox or one of its even more privacy-conscious alternatives, such as LibreWolf. Chrome has always been deeply problematic, but with this ridiculous “Privacy Sandbox”, the browser has effectively become a tool to show you ads first, and a browse second. Mark my words – the total gutting of adblocking in Chrome is up next.

Google kills Pixel Pass subscription service

With the introduction of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro back in 2021, Google also announced a new subscription service called Pixel Pass. This Pixel Pass would allow you to pay a monthly fee to cover the newest Pixel phone, your YouTube Premium subscription, storage with Google One, and Google Play Pass. Today, Google quietly discontinued the Pixel Pass (effective August 29), so I hope you weren’t expecting to take advantage with the Pixel 8 series in a couple of months. So, Google launches a subscription service for Pixel phones, and cancels it right before their new Pixel phone launches. Scummy, and potentially scammy. I am getting a new phone this October. I’m incredibly hesitant to spend any money on the Pixel 8 because what if Google gets bored of it and just cancels the whole thing two months from now? Samsung has been doing a great job keeping recent Galaxy devices up to date, so I’m not entirely sure what the Pixel even offers anymore at this point.

Now Available: Duet AI for Google Workspace

From Google’s Workspaces Blog: Today we’re making Duet AI for Google Workspace generally available, and you can get started now with a no-cost trial. With over 3 billion users and more than 10 million paying customers who rely on it every day to get things done, Google Workspace is the world’s most popular productivity tool. Our pioneering technology makes collaborating with people easy, fun, and ubiquitously available. With the introduction of Duet AI, we added AI as a real-time collaborator. Since its launch, thousands of companies and more than a million trusted testers have used Duet AI as a powerful collaboration partner that can act as a coach, source of inspiration, and productivity booster — all while ensuring every user and organization has control over their data. None of this stuff even remotely interests me, but to be fair – I don’t work in a large organisations with dozens of meetings to remember, endless emails to read, and countless shared documents to keep track of. I have no idea if these features make any of those tedious things any easier, or if it’s just something users who do live the office, collaborative life shove to the side as a nuisance.

The end of the Googleverse

Google officially went online later in 1998. It quickly became so inseparable from both the way we use the internet and, eventually, culture itself, that we almost lack the language to describe what Google’s impact over the last 25 years has actually been. It’s like asking a fish to explain what the ocean is. And yet, all around us are signs that the era of “peak Google” is ending or, possibly, already over. There is a growing chorus of complaints that Google is not as accurate, as competent, as dedicated to search as it once was. The rise of massive closed algorithmic social networks like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram began eating the web in the 2010s. More recently, there’s been a shift to entertainment-based video feeds like TikTok — which is now being used as a primary search engine by a new generation of internet users. Google has consistently been getting worse in both user experience and search results for years now, but the frustrating thing is that Google has been – and still is – so incredibly dominant, that there really isn’t any viable competition. DuckDuckGo is nice, I guess, and I use it, but in the end it’s just Bing with extra steps, and it shows in its own rather dismal search results. Everything else barely deserves a mention. While I hear good things about Kagi, their business model just is not suited for someone like me who relies on searching the web more than most people do – I’m a translator, and we have to be effectively experts in so many fields that I almost spend more time searching and cross-referencing terminology in all kinds of fields than I do actually writing down the definitive translations. Add to that the various topics I need to cover for OSNews, and even their 1000 searches a month for $10 is not enough, and paying $25 per month for their unlimited tier – or $300 a year – is absolutely bonkers expensive. And we all know those prices are only going to go up. So, online search is in a bad spot right now, and I don’t think adding “AI” to it is going to make it any better – in fact, it’s probably only going to make it worse. There’s definitely a massive opportunity here for someone to make an actually good, no-nonsense search engine, but crawling and indexing the web is prohibitively expensive, so even the pricey stuff like Kagi relies on Google and others for its results. I wish Google would just focus their search efforts on making a good search engine, sprinkled with some ads in the sidebar or occasionally interspersed inside the results, clearly marked. They have the data, they have the index – why are they making search worse, instead of better? I hate this headline.

Google’s steps to comply with the EU’s DSA

Last year the European Union enacted a new set of regulations known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), designed to harmonize content regulations across the EU and create specific processes for online content moderation. The DSA applies to many different online services – from marketplaces and app stores to online video sharing platforms and search engines. As a result, we have adapted many of our long-standing trust and safety processes and changed the operation of some of our services to comply with the DSA’s specific requirements. We look forward to continued engagement with the European Commission and other stakeholders, including technical and policy experts, as we progress this important work. This blog post lists some of the steps Google is taking to comply with the DSA, which mostly come down to more transparency and giving researchers more access to how Google’s products work. It seems a tad on the vague and light side, so we’ll see if these steps are enough to bring Google in line.

Stronger protection for additional sensitive actions taken in Gmail

Google is further strengthening its protections around Gmail, and from now on, you’ll have to verify it’s you through whatever 2FA method you prefer. It covers changing settings related to filters, forwarding, and IMAP access. When these actions are taken, Google will evaluate the session attempting the action, and if it’s deemed risky, it will be challenged with a “Verify it’s you” prompt. Through a second and trusted factor, such as a 2-step verification code, users can confirm the validity of the action. If a verification challenge is failed or not completed, users are sent a “Critical security alert” notification on trusted devices. Seems like a good move.

Chromebooks with Nvidia GPUs get the chopping block

About Chromebooks reports: This isn’t turning out to be a good week if you’re a Chromebook hardware fan. Previously planned Chromebooks with Nvidia GPUs are no longer in the works. This follows Monday’s news that Qualcomm Gen 3 Snapdragon 7c Chromebooks were canceled. Indeed, a reader comment from the Snapdragon post pointed out the Google code that explains, in no uncertain terms, that several ChromeOS baseboards have been canceled. I did a little more research and all three of those boards share one common feature. They all were designed to support Nvidia GPUs. This is such a great example of why I titled my review of Chrome OS Flex “a good start with zero follow-through”. Google puts all this effort and marketing into bringing Steam to Chrome OS officially, and even lets several OEMs manufacture and sell gaming-focused Chromebooks… Only to then let it fizzle out and not follow through with better, more gaming-suited hardware. You can almost taste the internal struggle between people wanting to turn Chrome OS into something bigger than what it is now, and the people who just want to shovel cheap plastic crap to schools. Whether you like Chrome OS or not, that just sucks. I want all platforms to get meaningfully better, but Google just doesn’t seem to care at all about Chrome OS.

Chrome: towards HTTPS by default

For the past several years, more than 90% of Chrome users’ navigations have been to HTTPS sites, across all major platforms. Thankfully, that means that most traffic is encrypted and authenticated, and thus safe from network attackers. However, a stubborn 5-10% of traffic has remained on HTTP, allowing attackers to eavesdrop on or change that data. Chrome shows a warning in the address bar when a connection to a site is not secure, but we believe this is insufficient: not only do many people not notice that warning, but by the time someone notices the warning, the damage may already have been done. We believe that the web should be secure by default. HTTPS-First Mode lets Chrome deliver on exactly that promise, by getting explicit permission from you before connecting to a site insecurely. Our goal is to eventually enable this mode for everyone by default. While the web isn’t quite ready to universally enable HTTPS-First Mode today, we’re announcing several important stepping stones towards that goal. It’s definitely going to be tough to get those last few percentages converted to HTTPS, and due to Chrome’s monopolistic influence on the web, any steps it takes will be felt by everyone.

Chrome OS Flex: a good start with zero follow-through

I doubt there’s an operating system out there that we have more preconceived notions about than Chrome OS, and most of those notions will be quite negative. Since I had little to no experience with Chrome OS, I decided it was time to address that shortcoming, and install Chrome OS Flex on my Dell XPS 13 9370 (Core i7-8550U, 16GB of RAM, 4K display), and see if there’s any merit in running Google’s desktop operating system. Installing Chrome OS Flex is a breeze. While Google warns you to stick to explicitly supported hardware, my XPS 13 9370, although not listed as officially supported, had no issues installing the operating system. The only things not working are the same things that don’t work in other Linux distributions either – the Goodix fingerprint reader (screw Dell for choosing Goodix), and the Windows Hello-focused depth camera. The latter can be made to work in Linux, but clearly Google did not go through the trouble of making it work out of the box. Everything else just worked, as you would expect from any other Linux distribution. Using an operating system primarily designed around websites as applications is a bit weird at first, but I was surprised how quickly I got used to it. Now, it is important to note that I do not do many complicated or demanding tasks on my laptop – I write OSNews articles, watch YouTube, browse around the web, and perform similar light tasks – so I’m not exactly pushing the limits of what a website-focused operating system can do. In fact, to my utter surprise, I found myself enjoying using Chrome OS quite a bit. Running websites as applications – both PWAs and plain websites opened in their own chromeless windows – has come a long way, and in many cases I barely realised I wasn’t running “native” applications. I discovered that turning websites I use often, like the OSNews WordPress backend, Wikipedia, Google Maps, and so on, into standalone applications with entries in the applications menu and dock was actually quite pleasant. Chrome OS allows you to choose if an application should run in a browser tab, or in a separate window without any browser chrome, and you can choose to open links to those websites in either a new regular tab, or in the aforementioned separate window. It all works surprisingly well – much better than I expected. Chrome OS also has quite a few features you wouldn’t expect from something mostly aimed at budget computers. It has support for various trackpad gestures, and they are very smooth and nice to use. For instance, you can swipe up with three fingers to gain an Exposé-like overview of all your running applications, which also gives you access to the virtual desktops feature. Chrome OS also comes with a few true native applications, like a surprisingly capable file manager and text editor. Other modern staples like a night light feature to reduce late-night eye strain, system-wide search, system-wide spellcheck, and others are also present. You can go deeper, too. Chrome OS comes with a complete Linux environment to run standard Linux applications. Once turned on, you gain access to a standard terminal you can use to access it, and the Linux environment’s storage becomes available in the file manager. I used it to install the regular Linux version of Steam, as well as the Flatpak of the Steam Link remote play application. Both worked just fine, although the Steam application ran extremely slow, and the Steam Link application did not seem to have access to the network, so it couldn’t find my Steam PCs. I’m chalking that one up to odd interactions between Flatpak and Chrome OS’ Linux environment. You can also link your Android device to your Chrome OS machine, giving you access to your notifications, Chrome tabs, and various toggles on your phone, such as the hotspot toggle. Sadly, this feature seems quite limited – if I get a Discord or WhatsApp notification and click it, nothing happens – even though I have both Discord and WhatsApp installed and running on Chrome OS, the operating system doesn’t seem to be able to link the phone’s notifications to the relevant installed applications, rendering the feature kind of pointless. No follow-through Chrome OS being a Google product, I was not entirely surprised to see a serious lack of follow-through in the operating system. Take the user interface’s dark mode, for instance – it’s half-baked and grossly incomplete. Various applications running in dark mode will inexplicably have a bright white titlebar, including GMail, the quintessential and flagship Google web app. I have to use an unlisted extension to fix this, but said extension is Manifest version 2, which Chrome OS warns you is deprecated and will stop working “in 2023”. It gets worse, though. Many of the most prominent Google applications do not support dark mode at all. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are all only available in bright white. Google Photos, an application that would undoubtedly benefit from a dark mode, does not support it. Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Translate, and countless others are all only available in eye-searing white. Then there’s the more esoteric issues that stem from the fact you’re effectively running web sites in browser windows. If you’re familiar with Google’s various web applications, you’ll know they have this grid icon in the top-right which opens a grid menu with the various other Google web applications. While such a menu might make sense while using a web browser on other operating systems, it’s entirely confusing on Chrome OS, and breaks the operating system’s UI in interesting ways. Aside from this menu taking up valuable real estate, it also doesn’t work in the way you expect it to, since it does not respect the window-or-tab setting from Chrome OS itself. Say I have Google Docs set to to open in a chromeless window, and I launch it from the grid menu inside Google Drive, Docs will

Google improves tools to remove search results about yourself

Today, we’re announcing some important new features in Google Search to help you stay in control of your personal information, privacy and online safety. There’s improved tools to remove results about yourself, such as those containing phone numbers and such, as well as easier ways to remove explicit content about yourself, such as photos. Of course, tools such as these merely remove the results from Google Search – they don’t actually remove them from the web.

Google, Amazon rebuked over unsupported Chromebooks still for sale

Google resisted pleas to extend the lifetime of Chromebooks set to expire as of this June and throughout the summer. Thirteen Chromebook models have met their death date since June 1 and won’t receive security updates or new features from Google anymore. But that hasn’t stopped the Chromebooks from being listed for sale on sites like Amazon for the same prices as before. Take the Asus Chromebook Flip C302. It came out in 2018, and on June 1—about five years later—it reached its automatic update expiration (AUE) date. But right now, you can buy a “new,” unused Flip C302 for $550 from Amazon or $820 via Walmart’s Marketplace (providing links for illustrative purposes; please don’t buy these unsupported laptops). That’s just one of eight Chromebooks that expired since June while still being readily available on Amazon. The listings don’t notify shoppers that the devices won’t receive updates from Google. Completely and utterly unacceptable. Not only should these Chromebooks be supported for much longer than just a measly five years, they obviously should not be sold as new past their expiration date. I hope mandated long software/update support timelines are next on the European Union’s consumer protection shopping list, because the way these megacorporations treat the hardware they sell is absurd.

Google’s plan to DRM the web goes against everything Google once stood for

Supporting the open web requires saying no to WEI, and having Google say no as well. It’s not a good policy. It’s not a good idea. It’s a terrible idea that takes Google that much further down the enshittification curve. Even if you can think of good reasons to try to set up such a system, there is way too much danger that comes along with it, undermining the very principles of the open web. It’s no surprise, of course, that Google would do this, but that doesn’t mean the internet-loving public should let them get away with it. Fin.

ChromeOS 116 may begin the Lacros browser push to Chromebooks

About Chromebooks reports: After covering Google’s effort to separate the Chrome browser from ChromeOS for over two years, it appears more of you will get to experience it. The project is called Lacros, and it uses the Linux browser for ChromeOS instead of the integrated browser. The idea is that browser updates can be pushed quicker to Chromebooks instead of waiting for a full ChromeOS update. Based on recent code changes I spotted, ChromeOS 116 may bring the Lacros browser to more Chromebooks with a wider release. This seems like a no-brainer move, and may help improve the version of Chrome running on Linux.

Italian competition authority forces Google to improve Google Takeout

Overall, the Authority found the commitments proposed by Google to be adequate to address the competition concerns. The group, in fact, presented a package of three commitments, two of which envisage supplementary solutions to Takeout – the service Google makes available to end users for backing up their data – to facilitate the export of data to third-party operators. The third commitment offers the possibility to start testing, prior to its official release, a new solution – currently under development – that will allow direct data portability from service to service, for third-party operators authorised by end users who so request, in relation to data provided by the users themselves or generated through their activity on Google’s online search engine and YouTube platform. The Italian competition authority has effectively forced Google to improve its Google Takeout tool, making it easier for users to not only take out their data, but also to migrate it to other services without having to manually export and import. If, in the near future, wherever you may live, you discover it’s become easier to move away from Google services, tank this case (and many others). This case is based on the GDPR, the Europan Union privacy law corporatists (and Facebook advocates) want you to equate to cookie popups, to scare you into thinking privacy laws – any laws, really – that target big companies are scary, ineffective, and out to hurt you. However, almost all of the cookie popups you see today are universally not in compliance with the GDPR, and are not mandated by the GDPR at all. The best way for a website or company to avoid cookie popups (even compliant ones), is to… Not share user data with third parties. Whenever you see a cookie popup (even a compliant one) don’t blame the EU or the GDPR – blame the website or company for shipping your data off to some ad provider or analytics service. Stop and think about why your data is being shared with third parties. And yes, that includes us, this website, OSNews.

Google’s nightmare “Web Integrity API” wants a DRM gatekeeper for the web

Google’s plan is that, during a webpage transaction, the web server could require you to pass an “environment attestation” test before you get any data. At this point your browser would contact a “third-party” attestation server, and you would need to pass some kind of test. If you passed, you would get a signed “IntegrityToken” that verifies your environment is unmodified and points to the content you wanted unlocked. You bring this back to the web server, and if the server trusts the attestation company, you get the content unlocked and finally get a response with the data you wanted. The web mercilessly mocked this idiotic proposal over the weekend, and rightfully so. This is an unadulterated, transparent attempt at locking down the web with DRM-like nonsense just to serve more targeted ads that you can’t block. This must not make its way into any browser or onto any server in any way, shape, or form. The less attention we give to this drivel, the better.

Google’s AI chatbot is trained by humans who say they’re overworked, underpaid and frustrated

The contractors are the invisible backend of the generative AI boom that’s hyped to change everything. Chatbots like Bard use computer intelligence to respond almost instantly to a range of queries spanning all of human knowledge and creativity. But to improve those responses so they can be reliably delivered again and again, tech companies rely on actual people who review the answers, provide feedback on mistakes and weed out any inklings of bias. It’s an increasingly thankless job. Six current Google contract workers said that as the company entered a AI arms race with rival OpenAI over the past year, the size of their workload and complexity of their tasks increased. Without specific expertise, they were trusted to assess answers in subjects ranging from medication doses to state laws. Documents shared with Bloomberg show convoluted instructions that workers must apply to tasks with deadlines for auditing answers that can be as short as three minutes. That’s the reality of “artificial intelligence” – the same reality it always seems to be in Silicon Valley: thousands and thousands of exploited workers behind the scenes running around like ants keeping the illusion of futurism alive for meager pay.