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Culture of empathy, not sympathy
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Hold yourself accountable
We recently made a change to simplify the way Chrome handles sign-in. Now, when you sign into any Google website, you’re also signed into Chrome with the same account. You’ll see your Google Account picture right in the Chrome UI, so you can easily see your sign-in status. When you sign out, either directly from Chrome or from any Google website, you’re completely signed out of your Google Account.
We want to be clear that this change to sign-in does not mean Chrome sync gets turned on. Users who want data like their browsing history, passwords, and bookmarks available on other devices must take additional action, such as turning on sync.
The new UI reminds users which Google Account is signed in. Importantly, this allows us to better help users who share a single device (for example, a family computer). Over the years, we’ve received feedback from users on shared devices that they were confused about Chrome’s sign-in state. We think these UI changes help prevent users from inadvertently performing searches or navigating to websites that could be saved to a different user’s synced account.
We’ve heard—and appreciate—your feedback. We’re going to make a few updates in the next release of Chrome (Version 70, released mid-October) to better communicate our changes and offer more control over the experience.
- While we think sign-in consistency will help many of our users, we’re adding a control that allows users to turn off linking web-based sign-in with browser-based sign-in—that way users have more control over their experience. For users that disable this feature, signing into a Google website will not sign them into Chrome.
- We’re updating our UIs to better communicate a user’s sync state. We want to be clearer about your sign-in state and whether or not you’re syncing data to your Google Account.
- We’re also going to change the way we handle the clearing of auth cookies. In the current version of Chrome, we keep the Google auth cookies to allow you to stay signed in after cookies are cleared. We will change this behavior that so all cookies are deleted and you will be signed out.
We deeply appreciate all of the passionate users who have engaged with us on this. Chrome is a diverse, worldwide community, and we’re lucky to have users who care as much as you do. Keep the feedback coming.
I’m one of those people who always cuts it close at the airport—it’s a race through security, with just enough time to grab the airline essentials: water bottle, magazine, a soft pretzel if I’m lucky. But I just learned that I can whip out Google Maps to find my way around the airport (by searching the airport name and terminal number), so I no longer waste time running around looking for my snack of choice.
For two decades, Google has built products that make my life more useful. Eight of these products now have a billion users, and with all that extra time at the airport, I got to thinking—how many other unknown tips and tricks are out there? Since Google is celebrating its 20th birthday this month, I present a party favor: tips on Google’s most-used products, straight from the people who helped build them.
- For lovers of covers:Try searching for a song and then tapping “other recordings” for different renditions.
- Don’t burn daylight: Make the most of your daylight hours by knowing when the sun will go down. Search [sunset] to get the time the sun will set today.
- For content connoisseurs:If you’re a fan of bingeable TV shows or a movie buff, you can see all the places to stream any show or film by searching [watch] followed by the title. (Head’s up: this is available in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Germany and India).
Emily Moxley, Director of Product Management
- Beat the crowds:Use Google Maps to find out the estimated wait times and popular times to visit your favorite restaurants and businesses.
- Don’t get lost in the parking lot:If you’ve ever spent way too long searching for your parked car, this tip’s for you. After navigating to your destination, tap on the blue dot and then “Set as parking location” so you can always find your way back to your parking spot.
- Quickest route to the airport snacks:If you’re flying to a new place, you can use Google Maps to help you find your way around an airport. A quick search for an airport terminal name, say “SFO Terminal 1,” will show you the lay of the land, including nearby gates, lounges, restaurants and stores.
Dane Glasgow, VP of Product
- Just add popcorn:Developed to cut down on glare and give you that movie theater experience, Dark Theme turns your background dark while you’re watching YouTube. It’s available on desktop, iOS and now rolling out to Android.
- Pick your pace:Speed up or slow down the playback of a video by tapping on the three dots at the bottom right of any video.
- Take a shortcut:While watching a YouTube video, use the numbered keys to seek in a video. For example, hitting “2” will take you 20 percent into the video, “6” will take you to 60 percent into the video, “0” will restart the video.
Brian Marquardt, Director of Product Management
- The ultimate to-do list: Open Tasks in your side panel within Gmail, then drag and drop emails to turn your messages into action items.
- Shhhh:Declutter your inbox with Gmail’s mute feature, which pushes the entire conversation to your archive and any future conversations on the thread bypass your inbox to be automatically archived as well.
- Take it back:Don’t fret over embarrassing typos, unintentional reply-alls, or other email taboos. In your Gmail settings, just implement a 5-30 second cancellation period on your sent emails and once you’ve fired one off, you’ll receive a prompt to “Undo.”
Kevin Smilak, Engineering Director
- Give your docs a gold star:Find your favorite Drive items by starring your most important docs within the Drive main menu, and then bookmarking your Starred page.
- File_name_V2:Freeze moments in time by naming different versions of the docs you edit frequently. In a Doc, Sheet, or Slides go to File > Version History > Name current version. Name any version then access it easily from “Version history” by name.
- Your search is our command:Google Drive makes the text within all of the images and PDFs you upload searchable. Try searching for a phrase that you know is inside a picture or PDF, which is especially helpful when you can’t remember your filename.
Alexander Vogenthaler, Director of Product Management
- Lost and found:If you’ve misplaced your Android phone, Find My Device lets you locate it by signing into your Google account. Or you can call it directly from a browser by typing “find my device” on Google. Lock your phone remotely or display a message on the lock screen, so if someone finds it they know who to contact. If you’re convinced it’s lost for good, you can erase all your data.
- Always reachable:Don’t miss any urgent phone calls and messages from important contacts like close family members or your child’s school, even when you have Do Not Disturb turned on. Just add a star to people that matter to you, and then allow calls and messages from “starred contacts only” in Do Not Disturb settings.
- Use your voice:You can ask your Google Assistant to handle tasks on your Android phone (running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later). Start by saying “OK Google,” then try “take a screenshot,” “turn on flashlight,” or “open WiFi setting.” You can even ask to “take a selfie”—this will open the camera app and start a countdown. Cheeeeeeeese.
Sagar Kamdar, Director of Product Management
- When you’re good with faces, but not names:Just hit pause on your movie, tap the circle around the actor or actress’s face, and learn more about them and what other movies they’ve been in.
- Read like a superhero: When you’re reading a comic on your phone, tap on a voice bubble and use your volume buttons to zoom in on the dialogue between two characters.
- What you wish for:You can create a wishlist to keep track of items you want to install or purchase on Google Play.
Kara Bailey, Global Merchandising Director
- Access history across devices:Open Chrome and click on “History.” From the drop down menu, click “Full History” and “Tabs From Other Devices.” If you’re signed into the same Google account on both your phone and your computer, you’ll see the article you were just about to finish on your way into work.
- Keeping tabs on your tabs:You can save eight days of time per year using keyboard shortcuts. Try this one in Chrome: jump between tabs at light speed by pressing Ctrl and the tab number you want to go to (i.e., Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, Ctrl+3).
- 👀☝😀 = 🎉. Right-click in any text field for a shortcut to access emoji on any platform Chrome can be found.
Ellie Powers, Group Product Manager, and Chris Beckmann, Product Management Director
So many tips, so much saved time.
In 2015, I joined Google to be a part of a company using technology to help others. I’m proud that Google’s commitment to its mission—to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful—remains strong 20 years in. I knew I wanted to be a part of it all, but had no idea that I would experience the power of our mission firsthand, and that it would help me to forge a friendship when I least expected it.
For the past three years, my wife and I have been working with organizations involved with refugee resettlement efforts. We both have immigrant parents, so we’ve heard stories about resettling in a country to make a better life for your children, but being forced to leave a country is very different. These refugees are often fleeing from life threatening situations. Aside from dealing with their past trauma and being in an unfamiliar place without a support system, they often can’t speak the local language.
My wife and I learned of a family of four—Nour, Mariam, three-year old Sanah and six-month-old Yousuf—who settled in Rialto, 45 minutes from where my wife and I grew up in Southern California. Through the assistance of organizations such as Hearts of Mercy and Miry’s List, they settled into an apartment shortly before giving birth to Yousuf. Still recovering from injuries sustained in Syria, Nour was unable to work, and had to rely on the help of others to get by. Without a car, their options were further limited. Then, in April of this year, they faced their hardest challenge yet: their daughter Sanah was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma.
We wanted to help, but didn’t know where to start—and as new parents ourselves, we could relate on a personal level. We fundraised for the family and collected toys for Yousuf and Sanah in hopes that they could feel supported. Moreso, we wanted to help them get through Sanah’s treatments with as little to worry about as possible.
A few weeks after we first heard of their story, we went to their home to meet in person. Nour was waiting outside for us, and we quickly realized there was a challenge that we had overlooked: the family only spoke Arabic. There I was, face to face with Nour, wanting to hear his story and reassure him that he’s surrounded by a supportive community, but couldn’t convey those thoughts or give Nour the ability to convey his. The only option I could think of was Google Translate, which I had used in previous international trips, and hoped would bridge this gap.
I opened the app to translate a few words, but we couldn’t get far by manually typing sentences. Instead, I tried “conversation” mode, which allows for real-time audio translations and makes the interaction feel more natural. We talked about his family’s story and what they were up against. I learned that back in Syria, Nour was shot twice in the back, and endured the deaths of his brothers. Now, Nour and Mariam are giving up everything to take care of Sanah and spend up to two hours commuting on a bus to and from her hospital treatments. Through all of this, they continue to be optimistic and hopeful, and are grateful for being able to make it to America.
I never imagined that we could sustain a 90-minute conversation in two languages, and that it would bring us closer together, inspiring me in a way I didn’t expect. Without Translate, we would have exchanged a few pleasantries, shared poorly communicated words and parted ways. Instead, we walked away with a bond built on an understanding of one another—we were just two fathers, talking about our fears and hopes for our family’s future. To this day, we stay connected on how the family is doing, and I’m looking forward to keeping this relationship going for a long time.
Refugee families often find themselves in situations that may seem normal to you and me—like at the DMV trying to get a driver’s license—or worse, in a dire situation like a hospital, with no way of communicating. We generally think of technology as an enabler of change, driving efficiency or making the impossible happen. But in this case, technology allowed me to make a life-changing connection, and brought me closer to family who was very far away from home.
Parents constantly tell us that they want their kids to experience the best of what tech has to offer–while also developing a healthy relationship with technology. Giving parents the tools they need to make the choices that are right for their families is critical, and we take our role here very seriously. Last year we launched the Family Link app to help parents stay in the loop while their kids are using Android devices. Family Link helps parents keep an eye on screen time, manage the apps their kids can use, and more. Over the coming days, we’ll make Family Link available to more families, on more devices, and in nearly every country in the world.
Family Link can now help parents with teens manage technology
Family Link originally launched for kids under-13, but we’ve heard overwhelmingly from parents that the app is still useful as their kids enter their teen years. This week, parents around the world will be able to use Family Link to supervise their teen’s existing Google Account for the first time (see applicable age for a teen in your country). There are some differences when supervising a teen’s account with Family Link. For example, teens are free to turn off supervision if they choose to, but we let parents know. Ultimately, it’s up to each individual family to have a conversation and decide what’s right for them.
Better Chromebook support for kids and teens
The need for supervision doesn’t end with mobile devices. Now, Family Link is available for Chromebook for kids and teens, allowing parents to manage website restrictions and account settings for their child from their device. Soon, parents will also be able to set screen time limits and manage the apps their child can use on Chromebooks.
Continuing to grow together
With more parents in more places able to use Family Link, we want to hear your thoughts on how we’re doing. If you want to share your ideas with us, just open the Family Link app, click the menu in the top left corner and tap “Help and feedback.”
Early results from our partnership with the Radiotherapy Department at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust suggest that we are well on our way to developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can analyse and segment medical scans of head and neck cancer to a similar standard as expert clinicians. This segmentation process is an essential but time-consuming step when planning radiotherapy treatment. The findingsalso show that our system can complete this process in a fraction of the time.Speeding up the segmentation processMore than half a million people are diagnosed each year with cancers of the head and neck worldwide. Radiotherapy is a key part of treatment, but clinical staff have to plan meticulously so that healthy tissue doesnt get damaged by radiation: a process which involves radiographers, oncologists and/or dosimetrists manually outlining the areas of anatomy that need radiotherapy, and those areas that should be avoided.Although our work is still at an early stage, we hope it could one day reduce the waiting time between diagnosis and treatment, which could potentially improve outcomes for cancer patients.Read More…
Multi-task learning – allowing a single agent to learn how to solve many different tasks – is a longstanding objective for artificial intelligence research. Recently, there has been a lot of excellent progress, with agents likeDQN able to use the same algorithm to learn to play multiple games including Breakout and Pong. These algorithms were used to train individual expert agents for each task. As artificial intelligence research advances to more complex real world domains, building a single general agent – as opposed to multiple expert agents – to learn to perform multiple tasks will be crucial. However, so far, this has proven to be a significant challenge.One reason is that there are often differences in the reward scales our reinforcement learning agents use to judge success, leading them to focus on tasks where the reward is arbitrarilyhigher. For example, in the Atari game Pong, the agent receives a reward of either -1, 0, or +1 per step. In contrast, an agent playing Ms. Pac-Man can obtain hundreds or thousands of points in a single step. Even if the size of individual rewards is comparable, the frequency of rewards can change over time as the agent gets better.Read More…
Inbox by Gmail has been a great place to experiment with new ideas like snoozing emails to later, as well as try the latest AI-powered experiences like Smart Reply, Nudges and high-priority notifications to help you stay productive.
Four years after launching Inbox in 2014, we’ve learned a lot about how to make email better—and we’ve taken popular Inbox experiences and added them into Gmail to help more than a billion people get more done with their emails everyday. As we look to the future, we want to take a more focused approach that will help us bring the best email experience to everyone. As a result, we’re planning to focus solely on Gmail and say goodbye to Inbox by Gmail at the end of March 2019.
We introduced the new Gmail in April this year, incorporating many of the same features you’ve come to love about Inbox plus newer features like Smart Compose, which helps you draft emails faster. Read more about how these features in Gmail can help you manage your inbox better in this post.
We know change is hard, so we’ve created a transition guide to help you switch from Inbox to the new Gmail with ease. All your conversations are already waiting for you in Gmail. See you there.
If you use Google Chrome, you may have noticed some changes that started rolling out last week. Yes, indeed, Chrome got a fresh look for its 10th birthday, and today we sat down with Alex Ainslie, Chrome’s lead designer, to go behind the scenes of the biggest redesign since Chrome launched 10 years ago.
So first, what changed in Chrome? Why and why now?
Alex: We’re introducing a major refresh on Chrome across all platforms, which aligns with Google’s new Material Theme. This update involved changing our approaches to shape, color, iconography, and typography. And why right now? You only turn 10 once, so we thought it would be the ideal moment.
For most people (who are non-designers), the modern browser is a simple window to the internet. Is it really that simple?
Alex: A major focus of our work is about finding ways to simplify web browsing. And we think about simplification not so much as a goal, but instead as a strategy for making Chrome more usable. The new, simplified tab strip, for example, makes it faster to find a specific tab when you have many open.
We’ve learned from user research around the world it can be hard to decipher URLs with too many words and characters. So we simplified the text you see in the address bar to make it easier to understand where a URL is taking you.
A simple user interface also makes it possible for us to create bold warnings when things aren’t safe: for example, when you visit a dangerous or deceptive site. This is an example of Chrome’s values of simplicity and security reinforcing each other.
Your team spent the last year working on the new design. What challenges did you face?
Alex: One of our key design challenges is to be a good citizen of all platforms. That means we work hard to ensure Chrome both looks comfortable and behaves in familiar ways on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, Daydream and iOS. For example, we respect platform conventions for window controls, button ordering, typography, and more. And we also take care to negotiate the relationship between these platform-specific elements and Google’s new Material Theme because we want Chrome to feel at home on all of your devices and to feel recognizably Googley.
The design team is spread across several offices – Mountain View, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Munich, and Paris. So in addition to thinking about how to improve Chrome’s UI we also think about how to maintain a healthy design culture across offices and timezones.
Have your team’s design principles changed since Chrome launched 10 years ago?
Alex: We still rely on the early Chrome team mantra, “Content, not chrome,” which is based on the idea of designing the browser UI to make the web content stand out. And our core values remain the same, though they’ve expanded. For example, in the case of speed, we think both about performance improvements to make pages load faster and about how Chrome can help people get things done more quickly. The improved Omnibox—which merges the search and address bar into one—is a great illustration of this.
What’s your proudest moment from the 8 years you’ve been on the team?
Alex: I appreciate that the Chrome team takes on difficult, long-term projects. For example, helping to move the web to HTTPS has been a multi-year effort. From improving our connection security indicators to marking HTTP sites as “Not secure,” we have plenty of examples of how design can help keep people safe and contribute to change throughout the ecosystem. So it’s not any specific element in Chrome’s UI that I am most proud of, but instead the broader outcomes that impact people out in the world.
This article is a condensed version of a keynote speech Parisa gave at Black Hat Conferenceon July 8, 2018.
As I kid, I used to spend hours at the arcade playing whack-a-mole. With a toy mallet in hand, I’d smash as many plastic moles as possible. But the more moles I whacked, the faster they popped up out of their holes.
I haven’t played this arcade game in years, but there have been times when my career in computer security felt like a reality version of whack-a-mole. Computer security issues are emerging at a quickening pace, and everyone’s energy is spent knocking out the same problems over and over and over.
We have to stop taking a whack-a-mole approach to security. Instead, we need to focus our energy on tackling the root causes of bad security, strategically investing in long-arc defense projects, and building out our coalitions beyond security experts.
Tackle the root cause
As the world becomes more dependent on safe and reliable technology, we can no longer be satisfied with isolated security fixes. Instead, we need to identify and tackle the underlying causes of bad security—whether they’re structural, organizational or technical.
Project Zero, a team that formed at Google in 2014, aims to advance the understanding of offensive security and improve defensive strategies. Over the past four years, the team has reported more than 1,400 vulnerabilities in a variety of targets, including operating systems, browsers, antivirus software, password managers, hardware and other popular software. But what’s more impressive than that number is the impact we’re seeing across industry in terms of tackling the root causes of bad security.
In the case of Project Zero, the team recognized that vendor response times for fixing critical security reports varied hugely, and it often didn’t tip in favor of the people using the technology. Unfortunately, software vendors don’t always have incentives aligned that prioritize security. To address that underlying problem, Project Zero introduced a consistent 90-day disclosure policy that removed the historical, time-consuming negotiation between security researchers and vendors.
Initially, this deadline-driven approach was controversial. It caused short-term pain for organizations that needed to make structural changes. But sticking to this approach resulted in vendors investing more in solving root problems that, for whatever reason, weren’t previously addressed. Since the introduction of the deadline-driven disclosure policy, one large vendor doubled the number of security updates released each year, and another vendor improved response time by 40 percent. When it came to the controversial deadline, 98 percent of the security issues Project Zero reported have been fixed within 90 days, up from 25 percent.
Through all of this, Project Zero worked in the open to advance the public’s understanding of exploitation techniques. Ultimately, the team recognized that one individual security researcher isn’t likely to change the behavior of a large vendor, but a larger public response can. The team sought out opportunities for collaboration with other vendors, and people came together, both inside and outside the walls of Google, to analyze and build defenses against exploits discovered in the wild.
Solving the root problems—especially in today’s distraction-driven environments—isn’t always the fastest or easiest route to take, but it builds a foundation for a more secure future.
Celebrate milestones to make progress on strategic projects
To make real security change, we need to commit to long-arc defense efforts, no matter how complex they may be or how long they take to complete. Maintaining momentum for these projects requires strategically picking milestones, communicating them repeatedly and celebrating progress along the way.
In 2014, the Chrome team set out on a mission to drive the adoption of HTTPS on the open web. We wanted the web to be secure by default, instead of opt-in secure. We also wanted to address confusion in our existing network security indicators; users weren’t perceiving the risk of HTTP connections given our lack of a warning. We knew this project would take many years to complete because of the complexity of the web ecosystem and the associated risk of making big changes to browser security warnings.
It’s important to remember that nobody owns the web. It’s an open ecosystem of multiple players, each with different incentives and constraints—so projects of this magnitude require wrangling a lot of moving parts. To avoid creating warning fatigue and confusion about the web, we set strategic milestones over a long period and share them publicly.
My job as a manager was to make sure my team believed change was possible and that they stayed optimistic over the entire course of the project. We shared a comprehensive step-by-step strategy and published the plan on our developer wiki for feedback. Our milestone-based plan started out simple and increasingly upped the pressure over time. Internally, we found fun and inexpensive ways to keep team morale high. We kicked off a brainstorming day with a poetry slam—finger snapping included! We made celebratory HTTPS cakes, pies and cookies. We also had a team chat to share updates, challenges and a lot of GIFs.
Building momentum externally was equally important. When sites made the switch to the more secure HTTPS, we celebrated with the broader community—usually via Twitter. And we published a transparency report that shed light on top sites and their HTTPS status. Hooray for openness!
Since our official announcement of these changes, HTTPS usage has made incredible progress. The web is ultimately more secure today because of a loose coalition of people who were able to stay committed to seeing a long, ambitious project all the way through. Which brings me to my third point…
Build a coalition
As we proactively invest in ambitious defense projects where the benefits aren’t immediately clear, we need to build a strong coalition of champions and supporters.
In 2012, the Chrome team started its Site Isolation effort, a project that mitigated the risk of cross-site data theft on the web. The project turned out to be the largest architecture change and code refactor in the history of Chrome! This was no small task considering Chrome is 10 years old, has more than 10 million lines of C++ code and has hundreds of engineers committing hundreds of changes each day from around the world. The core Site Isolation team was made up of only around 10 people, so building a strong coalition of support for the project outside of the team was critical for its success.
Originally, we thought this project would take a year to complete. Turns out we were off by more than a factor of five! Estimation mistakes like this tend to put a bullseye on a project’s back from upper management—and with good reason. Luckily, the team regularly articulated progress to me and the reasons why it was more work than first anticipated. They also demonstrated positive impact in terms of overall Chrome code health, which benefited other parts of Chrome. That gave me additional cover to defend the project and communicate its value to senior stakeholders over the years.
Aside from management, the team needed allies from partner teams. If other Chrome team members weren’t motivated to help or didn’t respond quickly to questions, emails and code reviews, then this 10-person project could have dragged on forever. The team kept a positive attitude and went out of their way to help others, even if it didn’t relate directly to their own project. Ultimately, they conducted themselves as good citizens to build a community of support—a good lesson for all of us. We might be able to find the problems and technical solutions on our own, but we rely on everyone working on technology to help clear the path to a safer future.
We’ll keep finding complex problems to solve as technology evolves, but I’m optimistic that we can continue to keep people safe. It just requires a little bit of change. We need to take a different approach to computer security that doesn’t feel like playing whack-o-mole. So let’s band together—inside and outside of our organizations—and commit to ambitious projects that solve the root problems. And let’s not forget to celebrate our wins along the way! 🎉