In a blog post this morning, Google made note of a startling fact regarding censorship. By The Big G's count, out of the 100 countries they offer services in, 25 are blocking at least some part of those services. Google calls the problem of net censorship a "growing problem" and references the Open Net initiative's list of countries that censor online content.
According to Google, the increase in censorship is due to the unprecedented number of people meeting to share ideas online. This means the traditional methods of controlling a few print and television sources no longer work. The example of YouTube is used - the video sharing site sees 24 hours of new content every minute. As a result governments simply clamp down on the internet, blocking large sections of the internet that may contain content they do not approve of.
By way of examples, Google singles out China and Vietnam for political censorship. But Google points out that it complies with democratically elected governments that have specific restrictions - like a ban on pro-Nazi material in Germany and France. But Google sums it's position up as such, " We are driven by a belief that more information means more choice, more freedom and ultimately more power for the individual."
Do you take Google at its word, or is this just business?
Users of the Chrome and Firefox 3.6 browsers got a nice treat today courtesy of Google. Gmail in those browsers now supports drag and drop file attachments. Instead of using the attachment link to bring up a file explorer window, you can just drag files into the Gmail interface and have them uploaded automatically. The feature works with multiple file uploads and requires no tinkering with settings.
Dragging a file (or files) anywhere in the Gmail window will bring up a special box in the area usually reserved for attachments. Simply drop the file(s) anywhere in that box to upload. Google hinted in their blog post that the feature was only being enabled in Firefox 3.6 and Chrome due to a some missing features in other browsers. Perhaps some sort of HTML5 support?
We really dig this feature, and hope that Google adds more UI elements that are this intuitive. Is this the sort of feature you'll use? Anything you've really been hoping Gmail would implement?
I'm not going to ask how or why but, for whatever reason, people can sometimes end up with more than one Google account. Maybe you just need double the space in your Gmail; Perhaps you're the poor person who has to control both your personal Gmail and some kind of corporate account for your business. Maybe you just really like Google.
Whatever the reason, you don't really have much of an option for switching between these accounts in Google Chrome. Signing in and out of your respective accounts is your only real choice, and that's a cumbersome process that's going to tie you up in authentication procedures (especially if you aren't saving your passwords via the browser). After you've completed your thirty-fifth consecutive sign-out and sign-in between accounts, you're going to ask for one of two things: a sanity check, or a better way to manage your multiple Google accounts.
Google Buzz is making all the wrong noises. It has been the talking point among privacy and digital rights activists ever since it launched. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a non-profit privacy advocacy group, wasted little time in highlighting several privacy issues with Buzz in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, it went ahead with the complaint despite Google making some crucial changes to address some of the major concerns.
Now, Google's failure to make Buzz an opt-in service has landed the company in further trouble. This time around, a bipartisan group comprising 11 congressmen has formally raised the matter with the FTC. "We are writing to express our concern over claims that Google's 'Google Buzz' social networking tool breaches online consumer privacy and trust. Due to the high number of individuals whose online privacy is affected by tools like this—either directly or indirectly—we feel that these claims warrant the Commission's review of Google's public disclosure of personal information of consumers through Google Buzz," they wrote in a letter to the FTC. Google would want to avoid a probe by making Buzz an opt-in service.
Gmail added a new security feature today to alert users of suspicious activity that may indicate unauthorized access. Gmail already has a feature that lists IP addresses the count is open at, but the information is at the bottom of the page and Google found that most users don’t know it’s there. Now Google will use a banner right up front to alert users proactively of strange activity.
The warning will show a brief description of the activity and link to a list of current and recent sessions identified by IP and geographic location. Google says the warning will only be triggered if the system considers the account to be at risk. For example, if you usually log in from a certain geographic area, then a log in occurs from outside that area, the alert would be triggered. The interface also allows users to change their password if they believe their account is indeed compromised.
We always like to see better security options for users, but it will be interesting to see if Google gets a lot of false positives. Keep an eye out and let us know if you get this warning and what caused it.
Blackberry users love email, and those who don't probably wish they had an iPhone. RIM's primary advantage over the years has been dynamite push email services, but as any Gmail user will tell you, support for Google's free email service has been somewhat lacking. Push support allowed users to retrieve Gmail messages, but when they got home to check their inboxes the old fashion way, anything read on the Blackberry was still marked as un-read even with IMAP enabled. Gmail users simply had no way to label or organize messages on the go. This was a frustrating limitation, but luckily for Blackberry Gmail users, this is all set to change.
RIM has confirmed plans to upgrade its North American BIS servers from 2.8 to 3.0 on Sunday March 28th, and along with a slew of other compatibility updates, support for 2-way Gmail sync as well as labels will be added. The BIS servers are the secret sauce hosted by RIM which allows up to 10 email accounts to be pushed to a single device. This allows mobile users to drastically reduce the amount of data the phone needs to transmit in order to conduct common tasks such as forwarding and opening email attachments.
Blackberry push email service will be disrupted between 2AM and 6AM EST as a result of the upgrade, but if you're a Gmail user on a Blackberry, it's a small price to pay.
Remember that old maxim that says we use only about 10 percent of our brain’s capacity? It’s been proven as hokum by modern neuroscience, but we think we can safely apply the same basic analogy to Google: The vast, vast, vast majority of computer users—even those practiced in hardcore nerdery—are almost certainly using a pitiful fraction of all the applications and features intrinsic to Google’s ever-expanding matrix of software code.
Sure, a Maximum PC reader may be well-versed in Google’s advanced search operators (Google allintext: “advanced search operators” if you missed that chapter), but we’re willing to wager that even the most curious among you haven’t taken the time to play with more than a few Google applications, let alone explore all their advanced features. Indeed, Google HQ is a fan-friggin’-amazing hotbed of R&D, but its developers are relatively quiet about the tools they’ve released. And that’s a shame, because Google’s constant innovation should get more press.
To address your inevitable Google knowledge deficit, we commissioned Gina Trapani to share her favorite tips. Gina launched Lifehacker.com, writes about Google for a bazillion media outlets, co-hosts the “This Week In Google” netcast, and pretty much makes it her job to know as much as possible about Google’s sundry apps and features.
There’s a workaround. To keep Chrome on its feet with Gmail running you’ll have to disable the offline option. This requires your going to Options/Under the Hood and removing all of the Gmail-related entires under “Change Gear Settings.” Problem is, you’ll also be removing all of your Gmail offline content.
Another way around the problem, the Download Blog advises: update the browser to the current beta (which will work on the Windows, Linux, and Mac versions), or revert back to a stable build (only for Windows). Windows users can use the Google Chrome Channel Changer to a switch versions.
I've spoken of the wonders of Chrome's Google Mail Checker Plus extension before. If you missed the memo, here's a quick hit: Mail Checker Plus drops a little icon next to your address bar that gives you a frequent update as to how many unread messages are in your Gmail account. You'd think that was it, given the simplicity of what said extension has to do. However, Google Mail Checker Plus dumps a ton of options into your lap for complete and total customization of this little icon and its functionality, including the ability to drop a preview window that gives you a quick glance as to what said emails actually are, as well as complete color controls and "always-on" SSL connectivity.
Great, eh? But frequent users of Google's services will note that there's more than just Gmail to worry about. What's going on in your Google Reader feed? Any new messages come through Google Voice? What the heck is Wave and how many unread messages do you have on your watery messaging service?
That's where the simplicity of the extension One Number comes into play. To find out what this helpful add-on does, and learn all about its extensive configuration options, hit the jump!
The Google Gears blog has been pretty quiet lately, and for a good reason. It appears the project, at least in its current state, is soon to become an orphan. Its no secret that Google is a fan of open standards, and they feel they are fairly close to duplicating all the functionality of Gears, but using HTML5 instead of a separate browser plug-in. “We're not there yet, but we are getting closer. In January we shipped a new version of Google Chrome that natively supports a Database API similar to the Gears database API, workers (both local and shared, equivalent to workers and cross-origin wokers in Gears), and also new APIs like Local Storage and Web Sockets.”
Google is promising to support the older version of Gears until the new HTML5 edition has fully matured, but curiously Safari on OSX Snow Leopard is being dropped because it would require a “significant engineering effort to support due to large architectural changes”. Firefox 3.6 users who have been left in limbo since its release will be happy to hear an update will be coming soon, but I fully expect it will be the last.
Gears has always felt a bit sluggish, so let just hope HTML5 can infuse some much needed pep into Google’s offline services.