Alphabet announced that they will be shutting down Google+ for consumers. They are going to continue Google+ for enterprise customers (meaning businesses).
This decision comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network. The Wall Street Journal says Google became aware of this last spring, and opted not to disclose the issue at that time.
I’m not really surprised by the decision to shut down Google+. Recently, Google announced that when someone using Chrome logs into a Google service or site, they would automatically be logged into the Chrome browser with that user account. Matthew Green described this as a “forced log-in policy”.
The first thing I did when I heard about that was delete Chrome off my computer, and remove the Gmail app from my phone. A bit later, I deleted everything that I’d put on my Google+ account.
I suspect I’m not the only one who reacted this way, because Google posted updates based on feedback in a blog post that I did not find to be persuasive. This was followed by the announcement that Google+ for consumers would be shutting down.
The shutdown of Google+ for consumers will take place over a ten-month period. This allows whoever is still using Google+ to have the opportunity to download and migrate their data.
The easiest to understand explanation I found about this change comes from S. Bálint’ blog post:
So what changed with Chrome 69? From that version, any time someone using Chrome logs into a Google service or site, they are also logged into Chrome-as-a-broswer with that user account. Any time someone logs out of a Google service, they are also logged out of the browser. Before Chrome 69, Chrome users could decline to be logged into Chrome entirely, skipping the Sync and other features that require a login and they could use Chrome in a logged-out state while still making use of Gmail for example.
I use a Mac, but was using Chrome for a few websites that didn’t work very well on Safari. I noticed that the photo I use on my Gmail account was appearing in the corner of the Chrome browser. I have since deleted Chrome from my computer and the Gmail app from my phone.
Personally, I’m not entirely clear on what, exactly, Chrome 69 wants to Sync from my Gmail account and the Chrome browser. It feels kind of grabby. The impression I got from the blogs I read (and linked above) is that even if Google says that it’s not automatically activating the Sync feature, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t do that in the future.
Google started out with a code of conduct that started with the sentence: “Don’t be evil.” The changes coming to Chrome 69 might not technically be “evil”… but they certainly aren’t nice.
Google has decided to give people greater control with new features in their ad settings. A new feature that is being rolled out allows people to mute reminder ads. This solves the annoying problem of being shown an ad from a website that you browsed and/or already made a purchase from.
You visit Snow Boot Co.’s website, add a pair of boots to your shopping card, but you don’t buy them because you want to keep looking around. The next time that you’re shopping online, Snow Boot Co. might show you ads that encourage you to come back to their site and buy those boots.
Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them. A new control within Ads Settings will enable you to mute Snow Boot Co.’s reminder ads.
Today, Google began rolling out this new ability to mute the reminder ads both in apps and on websites. You will be able to mute the reminder ads on websites that partner with Google to show ads. Google plans to expand mute reminder ads tool to control ads on YouTube, Search, and Gmail in coming months.
In addition, Google has updated the Mute This Ad tool. It allows you to stop seeing an add that you do not want to see. The update of this tool means it will now recognize your feedback about a specific ad on any device where you are signed in to your Google Account. The example Google gives is: “If you mute an ad for Snow Boot Co. on your smartphone, it will also be muted on your laptop.”
Google says users will see Mute This Ad in even more places as a result of the update. Google is expanding to tool to work across more apps and websites that partner with Google and that show ads.
Google is ending its First Click Free policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model. This could change the amount of news websites that you can read without paying for a subscription to one or more of them.
Part of the point of this new change is to enable news websites to provide small samples of their articles for free so readers can determine if they want to buy a subscription. Google explains:
The ecosystem is sustained via two main sources of revenue: ads and subscriptions, with the latter requiring a delicate balance to be effective in Search. Typically subscription content is hidden behind paywalls, so that users who don’t have a subscription don’t have access. Our evaluations have shown that users who are not familiar with the high quality behind a paywall often turn to other sites offering free content. It is difficult to justify a subscription if one doesn’t already know how valuable the content is, and in fact, our experiments have shown that a portion of users shy away from subscription sites. Therefore, it is essential that sites provide some amount of free sampling of their content so that users can learn how valuable their content is.
The Flexible Sampling model will replace First Click Free. It will allow publishers to determine for themselves how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers. It sounds like Google sees the Flexible Sampling model as a “try before you buy” offer.
Google recommends that publishers start by allowing 10 free clicks per month to Google search users in order to preserve a good user experience for new potential subscribers. In addition, Google recommends publishers provide a lead-in of the first few sentences, or 50 to 100 words, of an article, in truncated content. This is intended give readers a clue about what the article is about – without giving them the full article.
The thing to keep in mind is that Google is not requiring news websites (or publishers) to provide lead-in truncated content or to allow users any free clicks per month. The decision about how much content to offer for free is left to individual publishers.
There’s nothing more confusing than trying to unpack a new(ish?) Google feature about so-called “news feeds,” as over the years Google has provided products with names like: Google News, Google Now, Google Plus, and Google Reader. But this next tweak to Google’s system doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with those services.
The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.
This “news feed” concept sounds an awful lot like the experience provided by monolithic social networking site Facebook. And I guess it makes sense for Google to want to try and siphon off some screen time from Facebook’s massive user base. But doesn’t Google already have a social network of its own?
OK, I get it. This new Google feed thing isn’t really a social network itself. It’s just sorta borrowing the news feed concept made famous by Facebook. When this new feature lands in Google’s mobile apps, it’ll take the place of Google Now, which is described as, “The company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information.”
I guess this could be a useful new feature from Google, as the company already knows a lot about its users’ browsing histories. But I doubt many people are going to be giving up the Facebook habit for Google’s news feed.
Google has created curriculum that can be used by educators and parents to teach their kids how to make smart decisions online. It is called “Be Internet Awesome”, and it aims to teach children the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.
“Be Internet Awesome” focuses on five fundamentals in “The Internet Code of Awesome”: Share with Care; Don’t Fall for Fake; Secure Your Secrets; It’s Cool to be Kind; and When in Doubt, Talk it Out.
Share With Care points out that good (and bad) news can travel fast online. It encourages kids to communicate responsibly. Keep personal details about family and friends private. It emphasizes “If it isn’t right to say, it isn’t right to post.”
Don’t Fall For Fake teaches kids to discern between what’s real and what’s fake online. It notes that people and situations online aren’t always what they seem.
Secure Your Secrets also emphasizes privacy. It teaches kids how to safeguard valuable information and helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.
It’s Cool to Be Kind is a lesson that I think many people on the internet need to learn. This section of the “Be Internet Awesome” fundamentals informs kids that the internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. It encourages kids to take the high road and apply the concept “treat others as you would like to be treated.”
When in Doubt, Talk It Out was designed to help kids understand what to do if they see something online that is questionable, or that makes them uncomfortable. They should talk it out with a trusted adults. This portion of “Be Internet Awesome” notes that adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.
Google has created a video game that pairs with “Be Internet Awesome”. The game is called Internetland, and it can be played directly through a browser via a link that is on the “Be Internet Awesome” website. The game gives kids a safe way to put the key lessons of digital safety into practice. It includes four challenging games.
Educators can download the “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum (which includes lesson plans and classroom activities.) Parents can download the “Be Internet Awesome Pledge”, which can be used to encourage the entire family to review the fundamentals and be safe on the internet.
My Pixel C upgraded to Nougat 7.1.2 at the weekend and after the obligatory reboot, I was presented with Google’s best efforts to enforce round icons across their own suite of apps. It’s embarrassingly bad. It’s one thing to create circular icons with roundness in mind, but to make round icons by slapping a white disc into the background is lazy, looks rubbish and is confusing to the user. I know Todd likes to keep GNC G-Rated but this really is a PoS. Here’s a selection of icons from my app drawer, which has a white background.
Look at Google’s icons and the way they’ve shoe-horned triangular icons into their new circular standard by putting them on a white disc. It’s sheer laziness and the design has prioritised circular compliance over aesthetic. The white disk looks indistinct against the white background and simply makes the icons appear small. Inbox and Gmail apps have suffered the same fate as well with tiny envelopes inside white circles. What were the designers thinking? At least they made some effort with Sheets and Slides…
And it’s confusing too. Compare an icon with white disc with the previous look of folders. Both are small icons inside a circle so the new icons look like old folders. On the right is what my folders look like on my phone which runs an older version of Android. Compare the folders with the new icons. Pretty similar and it confused me the first time I saw the new Inbox logo. I thought, “What’s Inbox doing in a folder?” It’s badly thought out and bad for users.
Finally, what is it with this push to round icons over all other considerations? What’s wrong with square icons, round icons, irregular icons? I don’t want my phone or tablet to look like a game of Dots with every icon a neat circle and I sincerely hope that the app developers tell Google where to shove it.