An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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July 31, 2015

A Renewal Reminder

Google has recently sent notifications about some domains that are about to expire. "Your registration of domain.com is about to expire. This means that users will no longer be able to access your website at that time."

The domains were registered using Google Domains, but they were set to automatically renew, so Google's message was confusing. Google realized that it was a mistake and sent another message:

"An automated email was sent out to you earlier in error with the subject 'Your domain registration is expiring'. Please discard the erroneous message. Since your domain is set to auto-renew, your domain will be renewed on the expiration date as expected. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused."

Unfortunately for Google, the message was sent to 1664 people and all the email addresses were added to the "to" field, so everyone can see them. Whoops!



Update: Google sent a new message. "Yesterday, we sent an email to select Google Domains customers in which all recipients' email addresses were visible in the 'To' field. We sincerely apologize, and we'll be evaluating our customer email processes to prevent an accident like this from happening again. Thank you for your understanding."

July 30, 2015

More Related Images in Google Image Search for Mobile

Google Image Search has a new mobile interface. When you tap a thumbnail, Google shows the image result, a link to the page and a long list of related images.


Below the search result, you can find a list of similar images. You can still swipe left or right to go to the previous or the next image result. Tap the image to hide everything else.



July 29, 2015

Google's Visual Translation Supports 20 New Languages

Google bought Word Lens last year and brought a very useful feature to Google Translate: real-time visual translation. Use a phone or a tablet running Android or iOS, point the camera at a sign or text in a foreign language and Google will translate the text almost instantly, while preserving all the other details. It's like using a magic camera that translates text and lets you read street signs, restaurant menus, user manuals, newspaper articles even if they're written in foreign languages.

Visual translation now supports 20 additional languages. "You can now translate to and from English and Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. You can also do one-way translations from English to Hindi and Thai." Back in January, the feature was launched with only 7 supported languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.



This feature requires to pick the right languages before tapping the camera button and one of the languages must be English. You'll probably be prompted to download a small language pack, since you can use Word Lens offline.

Google Research Blog has more information about Word Lens. After finding the text regions in the picture, Google recognizes the letters using a convolutional neural network. "Letters out in the real world are marred by reflections, dirt, smudges, and all kinds of weirdness. So we built our letter generator to create all kinds of fake 'dirt' to convincingly mimic the noisiness of the real world—fake reflections, fake smudges, fake weirdness all around." After recognizing the letters, Google translates the text taking into account that text recognition might include mistakes, then it "renders the translation on top of the original words in the same style as the original". Google actually erases the original text using the colors surrounding the text and draws the translation using the initial foreground color. It's quite clever.

Here's a funny demo:

July 28, 2015

Popular Times Added to Google's Local Search Cards

Google has a new feature for local search cards. When you search for restaurants, stores, museums and other places, you can now see the busiest times of the day or week. The new "popular times" section shows when it's a good time to go to a certain place and when it's best to avoid it because it's too crowded.


"Now, you can avoid the wait and see the busiest times of the week at millions of places and businesses around the world directly from Google Search. For example, just search for "Blue Bottle Williamsburg", tap on the title and see how busy it gets throughout the day," informs Google.


For now, it seems that this feature is only available in the mobile interface. Google says that the data is based on historical visits, so I assume it uses Location History and other location services for mobile devices. Google Maps has a similar feature that shows typical traffic.

Google Photos Search Filters

Google+ Photos has a few search filters that are pretty useful. You can find them if you click the small arrow from the search box: Auto Backup, Hangouts, Google Drive, Posts, Auto Awesome, Videos and more. The nice thing is that most of them are also available in Google Photos.


Google Photos has a search page that shows a few filters: Creations (replaces Auto Awesome), Google Drive, Video, Recently Added. Here are some searches you can use to bring back the filters from Google+ Photos:

#AutoBackup - shows all the photos automatically backed up from your mobile devices and desktop computers

#Desktop - shows the photos automatically backed up from your desktop computers

#Posts - shows the photos added to your Google+ posts

#All - shows all your photos

#PhotosOfYou - photos you've been tagged in

#CAMERANAME - replace CAMERANAME with the your camera's model or brand to see all the photos taken with that camera. Some examples: #Nexus5, #Canon, #iPhone.

July 27, 2015

Google+ Profiles, No Longer Required

After so many years of promoting Google+ and integrating it with other services, Google realized that Google+ doesn't mean a lot for many Google users and it started dismantling Google+. Google Photos is now a standalone service and other Google+ features will follow suit.

In a blog post, Google announced that Google+ profiles will no longer be required and YouTube will be the first service that will make this change in the coming weeks. "A Google Account will be all you'll need to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google. Your underlying Google Account won't be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don't plan to use Google+ itself, we'll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles."

A lot of YouTube users complained when YouTube switched to a new commenting system which required Google+ profiles, but YouTube comments are much better today. Now YouTube comments will no longer appear on Google+ and Google+ posts that share a YouTube video will no longer be added as YouTube comments. "In the coming weeks, YouTube will no longer require a Google+ profile when you want to upload, comment, or create a channel," mentions the YouTube Blog.

Google reassures users that Google+ will continue to exist and will become "a place where people engage around their shared interests". It's a much smaller goal for a service that used to tie all the other Google services, add unified sharing and identity information. Google+ used to be more than a service, it was a layer that was supposed to make Google products work together.

Here's what Bradley Horowitz said back in 2011:

"Until now, every single Google property acted like a separate company. Due to the way we grew, through various acquisitions and the fierce independence of each division within Google, each product sort of veered off in its own direction. That was dizzying. But Google+ is Google itself. We're extending it across all that we do — search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube — so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are."


Bradley Horowitz is now the Google VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing. That's "Streams, Photos, and Sharing" and not Google+. Ever since it was launched back in 2011, Google+ meant 2 things: the stream and the sharing platform. It looks like Google+ now focuses on the stream, which was less successful than the sharing platform.

It's not clear how Google+ will continue to exist if Google removes important features like photo sharing and starts to remove the integration with YouTube and other Google services. It just makes it easier for Google to discontinue Google+, now that fewer people will use it.

Gmail's Mobile Site Promotes Inbox App

I'm not sure if this is new, but I've noticed that Google now promotes the Inbox app when opening Gmail in the mobile browser. "Get Inbox by Gmail, a new email app from the Gmail team," suggests the interstitial page, which still lets you "go to the mobile Gmail site".

Here's a screenshot from an iPad:


And another screenshot from a Nexus 5:


Google used to promote the Gmail app.

YouTube's Updated Notifications

YouTube has recently changed the settings for notifications. When you subscribe to a channel, there's a box that says "Send me all notifications for this channel". The settings page has a new label for the email digest checkbox: "Occasionally notify me of new videos and activity from my subscriptions" and you can choose if you want email notifications, mobile notifications or both email and mobile notifications.


Mobile apps for Android and iOS have a notification section in the settings, which lets you disable or enable notifications, customize notification types (subscription activity, recommended videos, comments and replies) and also see all your notifications.

Named Places in Google Maps

The latest version of the Google Maps app for Android lets you add private names for places. Search for an address or drop a pin on the map, tap the 3-dot menu icon and pick "Edit name". You can add a name that lets you quickly find the place on the map, just like you can find "home" or "work". The private name is saved to your Google account and you're the only one who can see it.

Here's an example for a local business (this feature is even more useful for places that don't have a name in Google Maps):





To edit a name or delete it, open the side menu and tap "Your places". At the top of the section, you can find the named places, including "home" and "work".

Google Maps also has a new interface for location history: it's called "your timeline" and it's available on the web and in the Android app. "Your Timeline allows you to visualize your real-world routines, easily see the trips you've taken and get a glimpse of the places where you spend your time. And if you use Google Photos, we'll show the photos you took when viewing a specific day, to help resurface your memories," informs Google. You can customize the timeline by removing places or adding private names. This feature still requires Location History, which can be enabled or disabled from Google Maps, Google Settings or My Account.

July 21, 2015

Google Hangouts Photo Sharing, Powered by Picasa Web

Now that Google+ Photos is discontinued, Google Apps admins received a message which informs them that Google Hangouts will only use Picasa Web Albums for photo sharing.

"The photo-sharing functionality in Hangouts is changing. Going forward, the ability to share photos and other multimedia in Hangouts Chat will be set by the Picasa Web Albums service rather than by the Google+ service. If Google+ is enabled in your domain, no further action is necessary. Google+ requires Picasa Web Albums so you can continue to share photos using Hangouts Chat just like you always have. If Google+ is not enabled for your domain and you want to use the photo-sharing functionality in Hangouts Chat, you must turn on the Picasa Web Albums service in your Admin console."


This change also affects regular Google users, since photos shared using Hangouts aren't added to Google Photos and you'll only find them in Picasa Web Albums when Google+ Photos will shut down. The same thing will happen with Blogger photos.

Picasa Web Albums and Google+ Photos served as a central hub for almost all the photos uploaded using Google services. This was great, since you could find all your photos in one place, but it also cluttered Picasa Web and Google+ Photos with albums automatically generated by Blogger, Google Hangouts and other services.

It looks like Picasa Web Albums is here to stay, at least for now.

{ Thanks, Petr Man. }