Google Archive

Evolving Chrome’s security indicators

Previously, HTTP usage was too high to mark all HTTP pages with a strong red warning, but in October 2018 (Chrome 70), we'll start showing the red "not secure" warning when users enter data on HTTP pages.

Seemingly small change, but still hugely significant. Right now, HTTPS pages are marked as secure, and HTTP pages are not marked at all. In the future, HTTPS pages will not be marked, while HTTP pages will be marked as insecure.

Google will make its paid storage plans cheaper

Google is rolling out new changes to its storage plans that include a new, low-cost storage plan and half off the price of its 2TB storage option, the company announced today. It's also converting all Google Drive paid storage plans to Google One, perhaps in part because you’ll now have one-tap access to Google’s live customer service.

Google One will get a new $2.99 a month option that gets you 200GB of storage. The 2TB plan, which usually costs $19.99 per month, will now cost $9.99 a month. Finally, the 1TB plan that costs $9.99 a month is getting removed. The other plans for 10, 20, or 30TB won’t see any changes.

This makes Apple's paltry iCloud offerings look even worse than they already did.

Google’s plan to make tech less addictive

We know that our smartphones are making us unhappy. At its annual developer's conference this week, Google revealed that 70% of its users actually want help balancing their digital lives. What's not so clear is what the smartphone manufacturers of the world should do about it. After all, it's in their business interests to make their phones as engaging - or addictive - as possible.

Yet at I/O, Google introduced a clever and aggressive response to its own habit-forming products. It's a broad initiative called Digital Wellbeing that CEO Sundar Pichai says will ultimately affect every Google product. "It's clear that technology can be a powerful force, but it's equally clear that we can't just be wide-eyed about ," said Pichai on stage at Google's I/O conference. "We feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right."

My cinical read on this is that since these are all optional features that will most likely be turned off by default, people will simply never turn them on, unless they themselves have a desire to lessen their smartphone use.

Google’s preparations for Europe’s new data protection law

Last year, we outlined Google's commitment to comply with Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), across all of the services we provide in the European Union. We've been working on our compliance efforts for over eighteen months, and ahead of the new law coming into effect, here's an update on some of the key steps we've taken.

A few insights into how Google will handle the data of EU citizens.

Google’s software design is having a reformation

Duarte, along with seven other designers at Google, was speaking to about a dozen reporters about what's next for Material Design, Google's system for creating software design. Maybe it's the (lapsed) Lutheran in me, but calling the original Material Design a "gospel" struck a chord. It was religiously adhered to by the Android faithful ever since it launched. Apps that followed Material Design were holy; apps that didn't were anathema. I can't count the number of times I saw an app get dismissed by the Android community because it wasn't updated for Material Design.

And to extend the metaphor (yes, please grant me an indulgence on this), it was also a very restrictive doctrine. The tools it offered helped make many Android apps feel consistent, but it also stripped away too much differentiation between them. They all ended up feeling the same. More importantly, many app makers didn't want to give up their brand to Material Design. It made too many apps look and feel identical.

Simply put, people were being too dogmatic about how Material Design apps should look.

I have a long posting history at OSNews talking about how I value consistency in GUI design, because the more consistent my UI, the less I have to think about using said UI. To me, the strictness of Material Design is a feature, not a bug - and seeing its designers consider it the other way around has me shaking my head. I don't give a rat's butt about "brands" and "differentiation" - I just want to use my damn software with as little effort as possible.

Less auteur app design, more standard controls and views.

I've been using an iPhone X since it came out, and the utter lack of consistency between iOS applications remains a stumbling block to me to this day. It'd be a shame if Material Design went down the same dark path.

The future of the Google Assistant

After the previous post honing in specifically on the Google Duplex feature, it's time to take a look at all the other features coming to the Google Assistant.

We announced our vision for the Google Assistant just two years ago at I/O, and since then, we've been making fast progress in bringing the Assistant to more people around the world to help them get things done. As of today, the Google Assistant is available on more than 500 million devices, it works with over 5,000 connected home devices, it's available in cars from more than 40 brands, and it's built right into the latest devices, from the Active Edge in the Pixel 2 to a dedicated Assistant key in the LG G7 ThinQ. Plus, it'll be available in more than 30 languages and 80 countries by the end of the year.

Today at I/O, we're sharing our vision for the next phase of the Google Assistant, as we make it more naturally conversational, visually assistive, and helpful in getting things done.

The new features will roll out over the coming months.

Google Duplex is an AI that makes natural phonecalls

This is both the scariest and the most amazing technology Google demoed on stage during I/O today.

Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

You must listen to the recorded conversations where a computer is making appointments with a hair salon and restaurant. The computer-generated half of the conversation sounds incredibly natural, with interruptions, "uhs", and so on. It even managed to fully understand the heavy accent of the restaurant worker, which even I had a hard time understanding at times. I am absolutely stunned this is even possible.

This is downright amazing, and will be built into the Google Assistant - so it can make appointments for you. While I doubt I'd ever even want to use something like this, there's no denying the technology is incredibly advanced. I am wondering, though, about the possible negative consequences of this technology, especially combined with advanced video editing tools.

Flutter beta 3 released, Fuchsia gets initial ART support

Tomorrow at Google I/O’s developers keynote, we will see the official launch of Flutter Beta 3. This beta is an important step towards the 1.0 build for Flutter, with a heavy focus on solidifying the improvements that Google has been working since they launched the initial Flutter Beta.

First and foremost among those improvements is the implementation of the Dart 2 programming language. The second version of Dart was designed specifically with the challenges that early Flutter builds ran into in mind, and brings some substantial changes, including strong typing, cleaner syntax, and an updated developer tool chain.

Flutter and Dart are also important parts of Fuchsia. And on that note, might I point out that Fuchsia is getting support for ART, the Android Runtime?

Linux applications on Chrome OS will use Material Design

After the recent news about Linux applications coming to Chrome OS, we now also know what they will look like.

The Chrome OS developers have been working out the stylistic elements of what you'll see once you open your first native Linux apps in Chrome OS, and they've opted for Adapta, a popular Material Design-inspired Gtk theme that can be used on many of your favorite GNU/Linux distributions.

This project may finally make Linux on the desktop happen.

Linux apps on Chrome OS: an overview

Here's all you need to know about Google's year-long secretive development of Linux app functionality in Chrome OS, also known as Project Crostini.

In a nutshell, it's a way to run regular Linux applications on Chrome OS without compromising security or enabling developer mode. The (not yet available) official setting states that it's to "Run Linux tools, editors, and IDEs on your Chromebook."

Crostini is a culmination of several years of development that enabled the functionality to run securely enough to meet Chrome OS's high-security standards. To understand why it's only just appearing, it's best to look at what came before.

This should make easy to manage, safe, and secure ChromeBooks infinitely more attractive to developers.

Google launches major Gmail redesign

Email is a necessity for most of us. We use it to stay in touch with colleagues and friends, keep up with the latest news, manage to-dos at home or at work - we just can't live without it. Today we announced major improvements to Gmail on the web to help people be more productive at work. Here's a quick look at how the new Gmail can help you accomplish more from your inbox.

A major redesign of the Gmail web interface is now available for testing.

The Google Assistant is going global

Android users are all around the world, so from the start, our goal has been to bring the Assistant to as many people, languages, and locations as possible. The Assistant is already available in eight languages, and by the end of the year it will be available in more than 30 languages, reaching 95 percent of all eligible Android phones worldwide. In the next few months, we’ll bring the Assistant to Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai on Android phones and iPhones, and we’ll add more languages on more devices throughout the year.

We’re also making the Assistant multilingual later this year, so families or individuals that speak more than one language can speak naturally to the Assistant. With this new feature, the Assistant will be able to understand you in multiple languages fluently. If you prefer to speak German at work, but French at home, your Assistant is right there with you. Multilingual will first be available in English, French and German, with support for more languages coming over time.

This is a decent improvement, but progress on the multilingual front is still quite slow. I understand this is a hard and difficult problem to solve, but if this issue was in any way related to increasing ad revenue, Google would've cracked it 5 years ago.

Chrome to start blocking annoying ads

The web is an incredible asset. It's an engine for innovation, a platform for sharing, and a universal gateway to information. When we built Chrome, we wanted to create a way for people to interact with the magic that is the web, without the browser getting in the way. We created a browser that took up minimal space on your screen, made the omnibar so you could quickly search or get directly to a website, and built our pop-up blocker to help you avoid unwanted content. Since then we’ve also added features such as Safe Browsing, pausing autoplay Flash and more - all aimed at protecting your experience of the web.

Your feedback has always played a critical part in the development of Chrome. This feedback has shown that a big source of frustration is annoying ads: video ads that play at full blast or giant pop-ups where you can’t seem to find the exit icon. These ads are designed to be disruptive and often stand in the way of people using their browsers for their intended purpose - connecting them to content and information. It's clear that annoying ads degrade what we all love about the web. That's why starting on February 15, Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites that repeatedly display these most disruptive ads after they've been flagged.

Good news for those still not using an adblocker, and bad news for sites that repeatedly display annoying ads.

The insane amount of backward compatibility in Google Maps

I still keep a couple of my favorite old smartphones. Sometimes I use one of them as my primary device for fun. Phones are among the fastest evolving markets, even a year makes a whole lot of differences. One of the biggest challenges with using old phones is the software: they don’t run modern software. And old software isn’t compatible with new websites, frameworks, encryption standards, APIs. Use an old device, and you will find yourself unable to get anything done. Every app crashes or complains that it can’t connect to the server. Even with Apple who is doing a fantastic job of keeping their phones updated, you may notice that many sites and apps have started dropping support for the iPhone 5, which is still a totally capable device.

But there is always an unlikely app that consistently works on all of my devices, regardless of their OS and how old they are: Google Maps.

I have a whole slew of old PDAs and phones, and even something as simple as getting them online through wireless internet is a major hassle, because they don't support the more advanced encryption protocols. Even if you do manage to get them online, they often won't support IMAP or or they'll lack some key email protocol settings. The fact that Google Maps apparently keeps on working is fascinating.

The shallowness of Google Translate

Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. To my mind, translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one's many years of experience in life, and on one's creative imagination. If, some "fine" day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness.

As a translator myself, I can indeed confirm Google Translate is complete and utter garbage, but the idea that I would "mourn" the end of translators seems outlandish to me. The unstoppable march of technology has eliminated countless jobs over the course of human existence, and if translators are next, I don't see any reason to mourn the end of my occupation. Of course, it'd suck for me personally, but that's about it.

That being said, I'm not afraid of running out of work any time soon. Google Translate's results are pretty terrible, and they only seem to be getting worse for me, instead of getting better. There's no doubt in my mind that machine translation will eventually get good enough, but I think it'll take at least another 20 years, if not more, to get there.

Google’s Fuchsia OS on the Pixelbook: it works!

So after the recent news that the Fuchsia team picked the Chrome OS-powered Google Pixelbook as a supported device, we jumped at the chance to get it up and running. And after a little elbow grease, it actually booted. Now, we're not just running the system UI on top of Android like last time, we're running Fuchsia directly on a piece of hardware!

This means it's finally time for a deep dive on what Fuchsia looks like in early 2018. Our usual in-development OS testing caveats apply: Fuchsia only started development in 2016 and probably has several years of development time ahead of it. Everything can - and probably will - change between now and release (if a release ever even happens). Google won't even officially acknowledge the OS exists - Fuchsia is a bunch of code sitting on fuchsia.googlesource.com.

This is quite exciting, and I'm definitely jealous I can't justify buying a Pixelbook just for this. Not that I could - as with everything Google, it's not available here.

Google memory loss

Tim Bray, former Google employee, currently working at Amazon, writes:

I think Google has stopped indexing the older parts of the Web. I think I can prove it. Google’s competition is doing better.

It's an interesting theory for sure, but it seems hard to back this up with any tangible evidence. How would you even test this? You can pick specific web sites to test this with, but that will always be an incredibly small - infinitesimally, unbelievably small - subset of web sites, and there's no way to extrapolate any of that to the web as a whole. To make matters worse, Google tailors search results to the information they have on you, making this even harder.