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

Send your tips to gostips@gmail.com.

August 4, 2015

YouTube Only Updated The HTML5 Player

There's something interesting about the latest YouTube player update: it's the first time when YouTube only updates the HTML5 player.

Since it's no longer that easy to force YouTube to switch to the Flash player, I've used an old version of Firefox (22.0). YouTube defaulted to the Flash player, the same old player before the recent update.


I've switched to the HTML5 player using youtube.com/html5 and YouTube displayed the new player, just like it does in the latest versions of most desktop browsers.

It's obvious that the Flash player has been deprecated and it's still used for older browsers and a small percentage of premium videos. If you're using the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, the HTML5 player is used by default and you can't even switch to the Flash player.

For some reason, the system requirements page from YouTube's help center still mentions that you need Adobe Flash Player to watch YouTube videos.

August 3, 2015

YouTube's New Desktop Player, Available for Everyone

After a few months of testing, the new desktop player for YouTube replaces the old one. The new HTML5 video player uses a transparent control bar that hides when you're not using it and has new buttons and dropdown menus.


"Our new player design has a bit more polish, gets out of the way of your video playback, and scales to any screen or embed size," informs YouTube. The TestTube page no longer lets you switch back to the old player and it only shows this message: "This browser is using the new YouTube player".


{ via YouTube }

Delete Recommendation History in Google Play Music

Google Play Music's desktop site has a new feature that lets you delete history. At the bottom of the settings page, there's a new section called "delete recommendation history". According to Google, this "removes the history used to give you recommendations and customize radio. This will not remove ratings and play counts on individual tracks."


Google shows a long list of recommended radios and albums and you can manually remove them by clicking "not interested" for each radio and album. After using the new "delete recommendation history" feature, I expected to see that all recommendations are removed and Google will start to show new suggested albums and radios based on the songs you play from now on. Unfortunately, that's not the case: Google still shows similar recommendations.

Speaking of historical data, it's surprising that Google Play Music still doesn't have a feature that shows all your recently played songs. It should be an auto playlist, just like "last added" and "thumbs up" and users should be able to export it.

{ Thanks, Camilo Moreira. }

Google Updates Ad Settings

Google has recently updated ad settings pages, which have a new design and more information about your options. You can still disable ads based on your interests from both Google sites and third-party sites. When you do that, you'll still see ads, but they "will not be based on data Google has associated with your Google Account, and so may be less relevant".

Until now, Google's ad settings page had 2 sections for interest-based ads on Google sites and non-Google sites. Google changed this: there are now separate pages for signed-in ads and signed-out ads. When you are signed in to a Google account, Google can use data associated with your account: Google search history, YouTube history, Google+ profile, manually added interests and more.



The section for signed-out ads has 2 separate settings for "ads based on your interests on websites beyond google.com" and "Google Search Ads based on your interests". Google uses your previous searches and browsing history to improve search ads, but you can disable this feature. AdSense ads also use your browsing history and anonymous demographic details to improve ads. Signed-out ads rely on cookies tied to anonymous data.


"You can control the ads that are delivered to you based on anonymous information by editing these settings. These ads will more likely be useful and relevant to you and your Google services, such as search," informs Google.



Google's help center has more information. "To opt out of all of Google’s interest-based ads on your browser, you'll need to opt out in 3 places: once when you're signed in to Google products, once when you're signed out, and once for ads on the Display Network ('websites beyond google.com'). The reason for the different opt-outs is that Google uses different information to target ads, depending on how you're interacting with Google and whether you're signed in with your Google account."

{ Thanks, Herin Maru. }

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.