Author Archives: The Official Google Blog

Five new features to try in Messages

Over the past few years, we’ve been working on improving the messaging experience on Android—from working with carriers to upgrade their networks to RCS to building new features. With Android Messages, we're creating a messaging experience that's available on multiple devices, lets you share whatever you want to share, and makes it easy to take action on your messages with Google AI. We’ve started making some of these updates to the Messages app and rounded up what’s new to show how you can use these features:

1. Send and receive texts from your computer

Today and over the next week, we’ll begin rolling out Messages for web, one of our top-requested features that lets you send and receive texts from your computer. To get started, select “Messages for web” in the menu of your Messages mobile app. On Messages for web, you can send stickers, emoji, and attach images in addition to sending text.

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2. Search for and send the perfect GIF

Sometimes, a GIF is worth a thousand words and conveys exactly what you mean. Now, you can tap the + button on the left hand side of the compose bar to search for GIFs for your conversation.

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3. Use Smart Reply to respond with a tap

Smart Reply saves you time when you’re messaging on the go by suggesting quick text or emoji responses to your messages. Once you’ve tapped a Smart Reply suggestion, it sends immediately. Smart Replies will be available in English for now, and come to more languages over time.

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4. Preview links within your conversations

The next time your friend sends you a link to an article or a new restaurant, you’ll have an idea of what you’re about to click on. You’ll see an inline preview of the link, directly in your conversation.

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5. Copy one-time passwords with one tap

Now, when you receive a message with a one-time password or code from a secure site —such as your bank—that you’re logging into, you can save time by copying that password directly from the message with a tap.

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Messages for web is starting to roll out today, with the rest of these features coming to the Messages app over the next week. You can try them out by updating your app to the latest version or by downloading Messages here.

#IMakeApps: Getting to know the people behind the apps

App makers come up with ideas and make them a reality. They design, code and create entertaining experiences from nothing. But most importantly, app makers are exceptional individuals with different backgrounds, interests and dreams.

To celebrate their hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, starting this week we’ll feature founders, product managers, designers and developers from the Android community around the world. We’ll showcase their passions and also hear about what they do when they step away from their computers.

But before we get started—are you an app or game maker? If so, we want to hear from you. Post on your social channels using #IMakeApps, sharing the app or game you work on, your role in its creation, and an image that best depicts who you are outside of work. We’ll be picking and sharing some of our favorites on our channels. And stay tuned for more #IMakeApps stories on g.co/play/imakeapps.

To kick things off, we’ll hear from our first app maker: Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually impaired chair restorer from Denmark and co-founder and inventor of Be My Eyes.

Hans Jørgen Wiberg, Chair restorer, Denmark

When and why did you get involved with technology?
At 25 I was diagnosed with an eye disease, so I gave up my plans to take over my family’s farm. Instead, I studied for a degree in philosophy and went on to restore chairs. So I’m not a techie and never thought I’d become one. I then came up with the idea for Be My Eyes in 2012 and that was the beginning of my tech journey as more than a smartphone user.

How did you come up with the idea for the app?
I am going blind myself and was also working for the Danish blind association as a consultant. Some of my blind friends were reaching out to friends and family via video calling services to ask for visual assistance but they always had to decide exactly who to call—this sparked the idea of Be My Eyes and a community of volunteers who could step in.

How did you kick off the project?
I took the idea to an event looking for support to turn it into a reality. I was lucky enough to be able to form a team of interested people; they have been working with me on this project ever since. The first year we spent raising the money, which allowed me to start hiring professional coders to build the app.

What has been your experience with Android & Google Play?
Since we launched our Android version in October 2017 we have had some very interesting numbers in places like Brazil and India and we consider Android a key factor in our goal of reaching the 90 percent of blind people living in low income settings. It was also great to win the Google Play Award to the best accessibility app earlier this year.

How has your app business grown since you started?
Be My Eyes is my only app. It has grown enormously since launch and it seems to be picking up speed over the last few months where we have increased +20%. Our network of over 1 million sighted volunteers now help visually impaired people in over 150 countries and over 180 languages.  

Four new ways to save data with Datally

Daily Limit and Guest Mode put limits on how much data you and your guests can use on your phone


Since we launched Datally last year, people around the world have used the Android app to better understand, control and save data. The average user has saved 21 percent of their mobile data—that’s like using data Monday to Thursday, and having Friday covered by Datally.


Here are four ways Datally can help you save even more:

Guest Mode–stay in control when lending your phone

Ever have a family member or friend borrow your phone, and then see they’ve used a lot more data than you expected? We love our family, but data hogging is not cool. A new feature, Guest Mode, lets you set the amount of data you’re okay to let another person use, before you hand over your phone.

Daily Limit–decide how much data to use everyday

It’s too easy to accidentally burn through your entire data pack. Daily Limit helps you control your own data use. You can set the maximum amount of data you want to spend per day, and get warnings when you’re about to bust through your limit. You can choose to block data for the rest of the day or keep going.

Unused Apps–stop your phone from leaking data

Did you know that for many people, 20 percent of mobile data is used in the background by apps they haven’t opened in over a month? Unused Apps shows you the apps that you’re not using, but that are taking up your precious data. With one tap, you can uninstall an unused app and keep your phone from leaking data.

Wi-Fi Map–an even easier way to find Wi-Fi

The Wi-Fi Map shows you all of the nearby Wi-Fi networks, so you can find the best quality network nearby. More Wi-Fi should help you continue surfing the net without worrying about how much it’s eating into your data plan. You can even rate that network after you connect.


Datally WiFi

Stop your phone leaking data with Unused Apps and find Wi-Fi nearby with Wi-Fi Map

All of these new features are rolling out today.

A strategic partnership with JD.com

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the largest and fastest growing ecommerce marketplaces in the world. People in Southeast Asia alone are expected to spend $88.1 billion online by 2025. These consumers in Asia-Pacific are ready to buy, but hard to please. The growth of access to the internet and online retail has led to rising expectations for top-notch experiences at every step of the shopper’s journey.  


That’s why we’re excited to announce a new strategic partnership with JD.com, one of the world’s leading ecommerce companies. As part of this partnership, we will invest $550 million in JD.com. We want to accelerate how retail ecosystems deliver consumer experiences that are helpful, personalized and offer high quality service in a range of countries around the world, including in Southeast Asia. By applying JD.com’s supply chain and logistics expertise and our technology strengths, we’re going to explore new ways retailers can make shopping effortless for their consumers, giving them the power to shop wherever and however they want.    


As part of our partnership, JD.com will also join Google Shopping and bring a selection of their high-quality products to consumers in multiple regions around the world.


We’re thrilled to partner with JD.com to explore new opportunities to make online shopping even easier for consumers around the world.

Introducing VR180 Creator, simplifying the video editing process

VR180 cameras allow creators to shoot three-dimensional, immersive photos and videos using affordable cameras that are small enough to fit in your pocket.

And to make it even easier for you to create and edit high quality VR videos, we’re launching VR180 Creator on Mac and Linux. This desktop tool lets anyone edit VR180 footage with existing VR video tools.  

VR180 Creator currently offers two features for VR videos. “Convert for Publishing” takes raw fisheye footage from VR180 cameras like the Lenovo Mirage Camera and converts it into a standardized equirect projection. This can be edited with the video editing software creators already use, like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. “Prepare for Publishing” re-injects the VR180 metadata after editing so that the footage is viewable on YouTube or Google Photos in 2D or VR.

VR180 Creator

With affordable VR180 cameras and the simplified editing process provided by VR180 Creator, you can capture your memories in VR whether it is giving your viewers a tour of your home or bringing your viewers on an adventure with you. You can learn more about how to use VR180 Creator here and you can download it here.

A father-son business is creating jobs, and spreading happiness, through socks

In 2016, Mark and John Cronin started a company with a unique mission: spreading happiness through socks. It was inspired by John's love for colorful socks, or what he calls his “crazy socks.” John has Down syndrome, and when he graduated high school, he wanted to go into business with his dad. And so, John’s Crazy Socks was born.

Like many retail businesses, selling socks is a seasonal business. So to expand their customer base year-round, John and Mark turned to advertising online. Since then, the company has soared. They now ship more than 1,500 orders a day to 44 countries and employ 35 people, 16 of whom have different capabilities. The company donates 5 percent of their earnings to the Special Olympics and supports a variety of other charity partners.  

Watch the video to learn more about how John and Mark are spreading happiness through socks, and check out google.com/retail to learn how retail businesses can grow with the help of Google.

#ThisisFamily: how we’re celebrating Pride

It’s the middle of the middle month of a choppy year and I’m thinking about how we stay steady. I’m thinking about ballasts, the heavy things—weighty, substantive—employed in ships to lend balance. My ballast is my family, and I’m lucky enough to have a few. There’s the family of my blood, those mad geniuses who share my last name; the family of my friends, wild spirits exploring the limits of what’s possible; and, last but not least, the family I walked into when I came to Google.

This Pride, Google and Google’s LGBTQ+ community are celebrating families big and small, chosen or inherited, as part of #ThisIsFamily. We encourage you to post on social media about the people who make up your family (no matter how you define it) and to donate to nonprofits like PFLAG, It Gets Better and GLAAD. Google.org has pledged to match up to $100,000 in total in donations to these three organizations during the month of June.

That’s not the only way we’re celebrating Pride. In typical Google fashion, we’re helping you connect with the world around you (and having a bit of fun) across our products:

  • In Google Maps, this year's parade routes are paved with rainbows.
  • You'll find rainbow "easter eggs" scattered through Google Search and G Suite, and you can join the fun from your desktop by switching your Gmail to a Pride theme for the month of June.
  • Google Play Newsstand has a special feature page for Pride-related coverage.
  • On YouTube, we're celebrating the LGBTQ+ creators who are #ProudToCreate a better future with their imagination, creativity, talent, and truth through our YouTube Spotlight Channel, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • We continue to help businesses declare their establishments "LGBTQ+ Friendly" or "Transgender Safe Space" on their business listings in Google Maps and Google Search.
  • One year on from our initial donation to the LGBT Center of New York in collaboration with the National Parks Foundation, Google.org is contributing another $500,000 (for a total of $1.5 Million) to the Center to help with the digitization of LGBTQ+ history. The project is called Stonewall Forever, and we need your help to find, preserve, and share the untold stories of LGBTQ+ history.
  • Google Arts & Culture has a dedicated Pride collection celebrating LGBTQ+ history, with 20 exhibits and over 2,700 artifacts, part of which comes from the Stonewall Forever project. 

Ballasts, like families, help us stay steady amidst commotion. Paradoxically, maybe, these heavy things also lift us up.

Celebrating Pride, from our families to yours.

Build custom apps for your school with App Maker

Educational institutions of all sizes have specific workflow needs, but often end up settling for a patchwork of costly apps and solutions. Whether you’re implementing a student-run technology help center, a ticketing system for IT issues or tracking equipment and supplies for a dining hall, finding the right technology for any process can be a challenge.


After hearing from IT teams at schools looking for affordable, custom technology to improve process and workflow issues, we’re introducing App Maker. It’s G Suite’s low-code application development environment that makes it easy to build custom apps that speed up workflows and make processes better. App Maker is flexible enough to be as useful to large companies as it is to schools and universities—and now it’s available for all G Suite for Education, Business and Enterprise customers.


Introducing App Maker

For Ben Hommerding, Instructional Technologist at St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, App Maker enables his lean but mighty team—like many school IT departments—to solve process issues from one central hub, and pass along the day-to-day management to the departments themselves. “You can build powerful capabilities, like advanced Google Forms that can streamline course enrollment and scholarship-tracking, without coding knowledge—making it more efficient for our team to build an app, and pass it along to any department,” said Hommerding. Once apps are set up, they can be managed with ease, even for faculty with little-to-no coding experience.

In addition to improving administrative processes, App Maker can also help specific academic departments. For example, computer science educators can use App Maker as a learning tool, teaching the fundamentals of app building to beginners and digging into the code with more advanced students.

You can also use App Maker apps to support processes for extracurricular activities, like athletic teams. At St. Norbert College, the recruiting process for the track team involved a frustrating bottleneck. The old recruiting app was built on Microsoft Access and was only editable by one person at a time. By replacing it with a custom, mobile responsive recruiting app built in App Maker, coaches can now instantly update and track athlete information, and more than one person can access it at a time. With the success and flexibility of the track app, Hommerding believes that other sports teams will soon be asking for their own. “App Maker is so powerful, you can do anything you want,” Hommerding said.

The nuts and bolts of creating custom apps in App Maker

We’ve made some changes since we launched App Maker in our Early Adopter Program to make it even more useful. Now, it offers built-in support for Cloud SQL to aide performance, scalability and convenience (You’ll need a GCP account to use Cloud SQL.). You can also design and build custom apps even faster by automating work with responsive templates and samples. Lastly, make your apps more polished with new drag-and-drop UI design options, and even declarative data modeling.

G Suite admins now have visibility over the apps running in their institutions including owners, usage metrics and OAuth permissions. Expanded OAuth Whitelisting controls mean admins will also be able to prevent apps from running without their approval. Learn more.
app maker mock

Read more about App Maker and learn how some education institutions and business are using it to build custom apps and speed up workflows. Get started with documentation and this codelab—we can’t wait to see what schools build with it!


Greater transparency and control over your Google ad experience

Over the years, you’ve told us that transparency and control over your data and ad experience are important. That's why we've built products and tools to help you manage that experience. Back in 2009, we launched Ad Settings, providing you with a single place for your ad controls, and in 2011 and 2012 we introduced Why this ad? and Mute this ad, giving you more transparency and control over the ads that you see. In 2015 all of these were brought together in your Google Account, the all-in-one destination for managing your personal information, privacy and security settings.

Today, we’re launching the new Ad Settings, which makes it easier for you to understand and control how your ads are tailored to you. We’re also providing more transparency around why you see certain ads by expanding Why this ad? to all of our services that show Google ads (like Search and YouTube) and almost all websites and apps that partner with us to show ads.

Understand and control how your ads are tailored to you

The new Ad Settings shows all the different factors that determine how ads are tailored to you in one view. This way, it’s easier for you to see them at a glance, learn more about why you see ads related to these topics, and decide if there are any you want to remove.

AdSettings_interest_control.gif

There are a few different factors that can determine how your ads are tailored to you, including: estimations of your interests based on your activity while you’re signed in, information you’ve added to your Google Account, and information from advertisers that partner with us to show ads—like if you’ve visited their site or signed up for their newsletter.

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For example, if you watched highlights from a recent soccer match on YouTube or searched “soccer fields near me” you might see an ad for a slick pair of soccer shorts. If you’ve told us you’re 40 years old, we would be less likely to show you ads about student study abroad programs. And if you visit the website of one of your favorite brands, you might see an ad from them.


This information helps make ads more relevant and useful to you. However, in the new Ad Settings, if you no longer want us to tailor your ads based on one of these factors you can choose to turn it off. Turning off a factor means you’ll no longer receive tailored ads related to it across our services, and on websites and apps that partner with us to show ads, as long as you’re signed in to your Google Account. The ads you see can still be based on general factors, like the subject of what you’re looking at or the time of day, or any other factor that is still turned on.


Why this ad? makes it easier to understand why you see certain ads

Why this ad? is a feature that appears next to ads and both helps you learn why you are seeing a certain ad and gives you easy access to your Ad Settings. For example, if you want to know why you’re seeing an ad for a camera, Why this ad? might tell you it’s because you’ve searched for cameras, visited photography websites, or clicked on ads for cameras before. We’ve now significantly expanded coverage of this feature; starting today, you’ll see Why this ad? notices on all our services that show Google Ads, such as ads on YouTube (including the YouTube app on connected TVs), Google Play, Gmail, Maps and Search. We’ve also expanded it to include almost all of the websites and apps that partner with us to show ads.

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The new Ad Settings and updates to Why this ad? provide you with more transparency and control over your Google ad experience than ever before. With these improvements, you can browse the web confidently knowing that you have the information and control to make Google work better for you.

Enterprise browser check-up: 6 Chrome Browser policies every IT admin should know

With more than 300 policies available to IT admins, we’re constantly expanding Chrome’s support for enterprises. Here’s a round-up of policies—some old, some new—designed to help IT admins make their organizations more secure and productive.


1. Enforce policies through forced sign-in.

Administrators can decide if they want to set many of their policies at a device level, or manage them by user. But if a user isn’t signed into their Google account, IT is unable to enforce some user-based policies in their organization.


Especially handy for organizations that use G Suite, the Forced Sign-In policy requires users to sign in to their Google account before they can use their browser. This helps you better enforce policies that you want to manage at the user level, for example enabling or disabling password manager or managing outdated plugins. This policy has been available since January 2018 for Windows and since April 2018 for Mac.


2. Make sure your users are running the latest version of Chrome Browser with relaunch notifications.

Chrome Browser automatically updates to ensure users are running the latest version of Chrome, which helps protect businesses against known security vulnerabilities. But if employees are in the middle of working, they might not always restart their browser for the latest updates.


Starting with Chrome 66 (released in April 2018), you can now set a policy that prompts your users to re-launch their browser to finalize updates. You can select from a variety of options for when and how to prompt users, such as indicating whether a restart is recommended or required, or setting forced restarts after a specific number of days. With this policy, IT can balance the need to ensure users are running on the latest, most secure version of Chrome Browser with giving them the flexibility to re-launch at a time that’s convenient for them.

3. Balance security with productivity through extension controls.

The Chrome web store already continuously monitors extensions to detect suspicious activity using Google’s machine learning tools. But many enterprises would like even more granular control.


To help, Chrome Browser allows you to whitelist and blacklist extensions for added assurance. You also have the option to change specific access of an extension, like if you want to specifically prevent an extension from requesting to access a camera. This gives you the flexibility to open up the use of extensions as much or as little as makes sense for your organization.


4. Add additional layers of protection with Site Isolation.

With browser-based threats like universal cross-site scripting (UXSS) increasingly prevalent, it’s always a good idea to consider additional layers of protection. Site isolation ensures that pages from different websites are always put into different processes, each running in a sandbox that limits what the process is allowed to do. It also blocks the process from receiving certain types of sensitive data from other sites. As a result, a malicious website will find it more difficult to steal data from other sites.


Since the release of Chrome 63, Site Isolation has been available to IT admins. Starting with Chrome 66 (released in April 2018), Site Isolation is automatically turned on for some users. If you want to manage centrally, IT can override this via policy.


5. Time updates or handle them manually.

Because Chrome Browser offers continuous release cycles—with new versions available every six weeks—you can rest assured that you’re protected from vulnerabilities without having to wait on manual patches. That said, if your business is performing testing or internal security checks, you may need more control around rolling out these updates.


Chrome Browser allows you to time when these automatic updates happen, or handle them manually so you can pace based on your internal processes or testing schedules. This makes it easier for you to control when updates happen so you can keep your users secure without disrupting business activity.


6. Update your Symantec Security Certificates.

In an effort to help businesses stay secure, we announced a temporary Chrome Browser policy in 2016 to protect those companies that rely on Symantec security certificates pre-dating June 2016. This policy is going away in Chrome 73 (estimated release in January 2019).


If you have this temporary policy turned on, now's a good time to check in on the status of your certificate updates. This will ensure that your users aren't exposed to security warnings when the policy expires.


To configure any of these policies, you can either use Group Policy in your Windows environment with the templates available in the enterprise bundle, or Google Admins can use the management console through Windows, Mac, or Linux computers. Just visit Device management > Chrome > User Settings in the Admin Console, or check out these instructions.


Chrome Browser also now offers release notes so you can stay updated on critical enterprise policies with each release. And if you’re interested in learning more, we’ll have several breakout sessions this year at Google Cloud Next to help you get the most from Chrome Browser. Visit the Next ‘18 website for more information.