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.
I want to say a few words about my current adventure. I joined the Fuchsia project at its inception and worked on the daunting task of building and shipping a brand new open-source operating system. As my colleague Chris noted, pointing to this comparison of a device running a Linux-based OS vs Fuchsia, making Fuchsia invisible was not an easy feat. Of course, under the hood, a lot is different. We built a brand new message-passing kernel, new connectivity stacks, component model, file-systems, you name it. And yes, there are a few security things I’m excited about. Fuchsia is a much bigger deal than most people think. Make no mistake about it – this is the future of all of Google’s end-user facing operating systems, from Chrome OS, Android, all the way down to Wear OS and Google Home devices. The amazing thing is that with the way Fuchsia is built and designed, including its support for Android applications, most users will be none the wiser they’ve jumped from Linux to something new.
As Android Police reports: Google has tried multiple times for years to dumb down the internet by simplifying Chrome’s “scary” address bar. It first tried to erode the URL entirely by showing just search terms in the omnibox, but its impractical design forced Google to retire it. The developers recently tried to simplify the omibox again — this time hiding all parts of the web address except the domain name. While it received a fair amount of criticism from users, Google defended its decision to move forward, citing its intention to help people better identify malicious sites. But now it seems that Google has reconsidered things, as it recently decided to close the curtains on its experiment. Good. URLs present important information, and preventing or limiting access to it is simply dumb, and asking for trouble.
Android 12 got the biggest privacy boost in recent years. Most were analogous to iOS 14’s privacy features with an exception in Bluetooth permission. By removing access to location services from Bluetooth, Google managed to weaken Facebook’s location-based advertisement business. However, the absence of a similar feature like App Tracking Transparency from Google I/O 2021 was a bummer. Gladly, though, our disappointment was short-lived. Only yesterday, Google announced its plans to make advertising ID an opt-out feature. Google doing this means they have an alternative the rest of the industry doesn’t.
Newly unredacted documents in a lawsuit against Google reveal that the company’s own executives and engineers knew just how difficult the company had made it for smartphone users to keep their location data private. Google continued collecting location data even when users turned off various location-sharing settings, made popular privacy settings harder to find, and even pressured LG and other phone makers into hiding settings precisely because users liked them, according to the documents. The cold and harsh truth is that these companies can pretty much get away with anything. In fact, hordes of people will crawl out of the woodwork to defend this kind of behaviour, all in the name of greed and wealth that they themselves never see anything of anyway, since it disappears into the pockets of a small number of billionaires, trickling down only as far as the drip after the last shake makes it to their shoe.
Google has made a deal for access to patient records from HCA, which which operates 181 hospitals and more than 2,000 healthcare sites in 21 states, so the tech company can develop healthcare algorithms, The Wall Street Journal reports. Google will store anonymized data from patient health records and internet-connected medical devices. That data will be used to build programs that could inform medical decisions made by doctors. The deal is described as “multiyear” by the WSJ, without specifying how many years. This feels uncomfortable on so many levels.
Google’s long-in-development, from-scratch operating system, Fuchsia, is now running on real Made by Google devices, namely, the first-generation Nest Hub. Google has told us that as of today, an update is beginning to roll out to owners of the first-generation Nest Hub, first released in 2018. For all intents and purposes, this update will not change any of the functionality of the Nest Hub, but under the hood, the smart display will be running Fuchsia OS instead of the Linux-based “Cast OS” it used before. In fact, your experience with the Nest Hub should be essentially identical. This is possible because Google’s smart display experience is built with Flutter, which is designed to consistently bring apps to multiple platforms, Fuchsia included. A big moment for the Fuchsia team, and the culmination of years and years of work. Google is clearly testing the waters here, allowing the brand new operating system to get some experience under its belt in a relatively controlled environment. Theoretically, Google could do the same transparent rollout on Android devices, since Fuchsia can run Android applications just fine – users wouldn’t even notice. However, I’m sure that is still a few years away.
9to5Google can report today that Google’s upcoming phones for this fall, including the presumed Pixel 6, will be among the first devices to run on the “GS101” Whitechapel chip. First rumored in early 2020, Whitechapel is an effort on Google’s part to create their own systems on a chip (SoCs) to be used in Pixel phones and Chromebooks alike, similar in to how Apple uses their own chips in the iPhone and Mac. Google was said to be co-developing Whitechapel with Samsung, whose Exynos chips rival Snapdragon processors in the Android space. Per that report, Google would be ready to launch devices with Whitechapel chips as soon as 2021. According to documentation viewed by 9to5Google, this fall’s Pixel phones will indeed be powered by Google’s Whitechapel platform. Google’s been hinting at this for a few years now. I’m curious to see how these will stack up against Apple’s and Qualcomm’s chips, because unlike what some people seem to think, Google has a lot of experience designing and building chips – just not for consumer devices.
For years now, we’ve been watching and waiting as Google has gradually developed their Fuchsia operating system from the ground up. Now evidence has appeared pointing to Google’s Fuchsia OS getting its first — and second — proper release. We’re still a few years away, but everything seems to be pointing towards Fuchsia becoming the company-wide operating system for virtually all of Google’s user-facing products – and it seems designed and set up in a way that regular users won’t even know they’ve made the transition from e.g. Android-on-Android-proper to Android-on-Fuchsia.
Google Chrome version 89 began rolling out to users in the stable channel on March 2 and should be on most people’s machines by now. The new build offers significant memory savings on 64-bit Windows platforms thanks to increased use of Google’s PartitionAlloc memory allocator. On macOS, Chrome 89 plays catch-up and gets closer to the performance of the flagship Windows builds. I feel like we get these reports and promises about Chrome’s performance every few months, yet Chrome keeps being the butt of jokes regarding its resource usage, especially on the Mac. Maybe this round will yield tangible improvements.
Chromebooks launched 10 years ago with a vision to rethink computing by designing a secure, easy-to-use laptop that becomes faster and more intelligent over time. As more and more people began using devices running Chrome OS, we evolved and expanded the platform to meet their diverse needs. Today, Chrome OS devices do everything from helping people get things done to entertaining them while they unwind. But we want to do more to provide a powerfully simple computing experience to the millions of people who use Chromebooks. We’re celebrating 10 years of Chromebooks with plenty of new features to bring our vision to life. It’s hard to imagine it’s already been ten years. Chromebooks are definitely a big success, and I’d love to finally sit down and properly review a Chromebook. I’ve barely even used one, and I want to know what it’s really like to live in a always-online world.
On OSNews we recently reported on how Google plans to remove support for third-party cookies. Many have seen this as offering a privacy boost for users, leading to a better Web where targeted ads based on web-browser behaviour are a thing of the past. The EFF takes a different view. Google is leading the charge to replace third-party cookies with a new suite of technologies to target ads on the Web. And some of its proposals show that it hasn’t learned the right lessons from the ongoing backlash to the surveillance business model. This post will focus on one of those proposals, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which is perhaps the most ambitious—and potentially the most harmful. FLoC is meant to be a new way to make your browser do the profiling that third-party trackers used to do themselves: in this case, boiling down your recent browsing activity into a behavioral label, and then sharing it with websites and advertisers. The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It may also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting.