Tag Archives: Google Chrome

Google Launches New Hangout App For Android, iOS And Chrome

Apart from the unveiling of the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, the tech-giant has also launched a new unified, cross-platform messaging service for Android, iOS, and Chrome at the I/O 2013 event in San Francisco. This messaging service has been rumored from a long time and it was previously codenamed as ‘Babel’. For the first time, Google’s Hangout messaging app will be available on all smartphones and tablets running on the Android and iOS Operating System as well as on the Google Chrome browser running on your Mac, Linux and Windows computer.

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Hangout allows you to send a text, photos and emoji to your friends. You can also video chat with up to 10 friends with this app. If your friends are not available when you try to reach them, they’ll see an alert next time they connect to Hangout. Similar to the Facebook Chat, this app lets you see whether your friends are online, when your friends are together in Hangouts, when they are typing or whether they have seen your message.

Once you see a notification on one device, Hangout will clear the notification from all other devices connected to your account. It also saves your chat history and shared photos by default, so that you can read your previous conversations anywhere anytime. You should also note that unlike Google Talk, Hangouts does not support invisible status. Google has also renamed the Instant Upload to Auto Backup, which helps you to automatically back up unlimited photos from your phone at standard size of 2048 pixels. The Hangout app is currently not available for Nexus 7.

[ Download Google Hangout on Android, iPad/iPhone and Chrome ]

Opera Was in the Know About Google’s Plans, Will Use Blink in Future Products

OperaGoogle has announced that it will be forking WebKit, and developing its own rendering engine called Blink. Less than a couple of months ago, Opera Software had announced that it would be dumping its own rendering engine (Presto), in favor of Google’s Chromium flavor of WebKit. So, where does this surprising development leave Opera?

As it turns out, Opera was well aware of Google’s plans, and in fact, Blink might have positively influenced Opera’s decision to adopt Chromium’s rendering engine. “We’ve known about these plans for a while and had a good dialogue with Google engineering about them”, Opera’s Lars Erik Bolstad confirmed to Digi.no. Bruce Lawson, another Opera employee, was also optimistic about Google’s new rendering engine. “Blink has a lot of promise for the Web”, Lawson wrote in a blog post. “Its architecture allows for greater speed – something that Opera and Google have long focused on. When browsers are fast and interoperable, using the web as a platform becomes more competitive against native app development.”

Blink solves one of the frequently cited downsides of Opera’s decision to abandon Presto – loss of diversity. With Blink powered Chrome builds expected to be in the wild rather soon, we will again end up with four major rendering engines – WebKit, Trident, Blink, and Gecko. Breaking the shackles of WebKit will also mean that Blink will be able to iterate faster, sport a smaller and faster codebase, and become more secure.

One thing that Google’s announcement makes amply clear is that Blink will be optimized for Chrome’s multi-process architecture. This is curious because, Opera had experimented with multi-process architecture on BSD more than a decade ago, and abandoned the one process per tab model due to resource overhead. Opera’s adoption of Blink seems to indicate that the Norwegian browser maker has changed its mind and will be following in Chrome’s footsteps soon.

Google Announces Blink, a New WebKit Fork That Will Power Chrome

Google-ChromeIn a surprising move, Google has decided to fork WebKit and create its own rendering engine called Blink. Since its inception, Google’s Chrome browser has been powered by the WebKit rendering engine, which itself was forked by Apple from KHTML in 2001. For the past five years, Google has been collaborating with Apple and numerous other Webkit users to develop and maintain the Webkit ecosystem. However, going forward, Google will be developing its own rendering engine that will be based on Webkit, but will gradually diverge over time.

The decision was apparently prompted by the growing complexities of remaining within the Webkit ecosystem. “Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects”, explained Adam Barth, a Software Engineer at Google. By making this change, Google expects to be able to remove 7 build systems and delete more than 7,000 files — comprising more than 4.5 million lines of code — right off the bat.

The core focus of Blink will be speed and simplicity. Google is also promising to strive for an open and inter-operable web by discouraging vendor prefixes and encouraging cross-browser compliant feature additions. Blink’s mission statement is “to improve the open web through technical innovation and good citizenship”.

Google Now Coming to Chrome Browser and OS

François Beaufort, a Google Chrome user from France, has spotted signs of impending arrival of Google Now in the Chrome browser. In the latest build of Chromium, the Google Now component extension can be enabled from chrome://flags. Before you get too excited, it’s worth pointing out that ordinary folks can’t play with it yet, since the extension requires Google Now server URL, which is yet to be uncovered.

Google Now is a personal assistant built on top of Google Search that uses natural language processing to answer questions. Additionally, it also pulls information from various Google services to highlight information it believes might be useful for the user. It was first introduced in Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), and has since then been updated several times by Google.

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I am not convinced about the utility of Google Now as just a Chrome browser extension, but it does make some sense for Chrome OS, in which everything is done from the browser. In fact, it’s very much possible that Google might be planning to add new cards to Google Now to make it more appealing for desktop users. For now, it appears that Google Now will be available only on Chrome browser for Windows, and Chrome OS.

Google Chrome for Android to Get Opera Turbo Like Data Compression Abilities

Google Chrome’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular. While Google’s deep pocket and marketing muscle has undoubtedly helped, it will be unfair to deny that Chrome deserves its popularity. Right from the beginning, it was clear that the folks behind Chrome knew what they were doing. Chrome boasted of a host of innovations including a minimalistic user interface, super fast JavaScript engine, and per-tab processes. However, it was also smart enough to take inspiration from the best aspects of different browsers. It copied various features from Opera including the ability to resume previous browsing session, restoring closed tabs, and visual bookmarks on the new tab page. Staying true to its tradition, Chrome is aping another popular Opera feature, and eliminating one of biggest advantages of using Opera on mobile phones.

The new feature that Chrome has its sights on is Opera Turbo. When Opera Turbo is enabled all HTTP traffic is redirected through Opera’s servers where text and images are compressed. The browser sitting on your system downloads this compressed data, instead of loading the full page. While image compression can reduce quality and the re-routing can increase latency, on slower connections this can result in significant speed improvements. If you are on a metered connection that is billed according to the data usage, this will even save you money by reducing the amount of data downloaded. In the recently released Opera for Android, the veteran browser firm re-branded Turbo as Off-road mode and gave it a more prominent spot in the user interface. Now, Google has announced that Chrome for Android will also incorporate a similar feature in the near future.

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In fact, if you are on the beta channel, you can already try out this new feature. Just open up chrome://flags in your browser and select Enable Data Compression Proxy. Google is using the open-source PageSpeed libraries, which are specifically tuned for the Chrome for Android, to perform the compression. All images will be automatically converted to Google’s WebP image format. Additionally, Google is also hoping to reduce latency by using its own SPDY protocol for communications between the proxy server and your browser. You can keep a tab on the bandwidth savings by opening the bandwidth section of chrome://net-internals.

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To be fair, Opera didn’t exactly invent the data compression proxy feature. Before it embedded Turbo, it had tied up with a company called Slipstream, which provided a similar compression service. However, enabling this feature required purchasing a subscription. And, even before this, there were companies like ONSPEED providing similar services to users through third-party software. However, Opera undoubtedly made the feature mainstream. It was also the first company that I am aware of to offer it for free. Opera took the concept to the next level with Opera Mini, in which not only were the resources compressed, but the entire web page was also rendered on the remote server. A static representation (OBML) was sent back to the browser. It’s important to note that the Turbo feature in Opera Mobile and Opera Desktop, and Opera Mini are different. Remote rendering in Opera Mini allows it to run on extremely low-end phones, but also prevents it from working with modern dynamic websites. Chrome’s new compression technology will be similar to Turbo in Opera Mobile (now called Off-road) and not Opera Mini.

Opera Ditches Presto, Will Begin Using Chrome’s Engine

Opera Software has never had it easy. Opera has always been the browser that is ignored by most, and loved zealously by a few. Yet, not only has it managed to survive for almost two decades, but has also grown into a profitable publicly traded company employing almost a thousand people across the globe. Today, the Norwegian browser firm announced that it has reached the milestone of 300 million users.

Three hundred million is a major landmark for Opera, which had reached the hundred million mark less than three years ago. However, Opera Software can hardly afford to sit back and relish its achievement. It’s desktop market share has practically stagnated, and its head-start in the mobile segment has been practically nullified by the rise of Android and iOS. Realizing the difficult situation it is in, Opera has done what very few fans and followers could have even imagined. It has decided to completely ditch Presto.

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Presto is Opera’s layout engine, and one of its prized creations. It has served Opera well. It allowed Opera to promote web standards, push for a faster surfing experience, innovate with advanced developer features, and earn additional revenue through licensing deals. However, it was also turning out to be Opera’s biggest drawback. Developing and maintaining a rendering engine is an extremely complex task. The fact that there are only four modern rendering engines – Trident (Internet Explorer), Gecko (Firefox), Webkit (Safari), and Presto (Opera) — exemplifies this. The fact that Presto had the least market share often meant that developers didn’t test their websites on Presto. The end result was annoying compatibility issues in Opera. Opera Software tried long and hard to tackle the compatibility issue. It created dedicated positions called “Web Opener” to promote cross-browser development practices, and in extreme cases, even fixed website bugs on its own through browserjs. However, with Webkit becoming a de-facto standard in the mobile space, and gaining momentum rapidly in the desktop market, Opera was fighting a losing cause.

This is not the first time Opera is making a big, bold move that few could have predicted. Back in 2005, Opera went from being a shareware to a freeware on the back of a search deal with Google. The move allowed Opera to break out of its niche, and increase its user base from hundreds of thousands to millions. Now, Opera is taking another bold step. Will it work? Or is it too little too late for the browser that seems destined to be forever the little guy.

I believe that Webkit offers Opera a way out that didn’t exist earlier. It’s a shared code base that is being used and improved by multiple entities. Switching to Webkit will free up valuable resources for Opera, as it will finally be able to stop worrying about website compatibility. It will also save Opera the effort of duplicating cutting edge standards that other browsers have already implemented. Yet, I can not help but wonder, how things would have turned out if Opera had open sourced Presto earlier.

Through this year, Opera will be transitioning to the the Chromium rendering engine, and V8 JavaScript engine. We have already seen an experimental browser called Opera Ice, which utilizes Webkit. At this year’s MWC, Opera will be exhibiting another new Webkit based Android product.

While the move to Webkit is undoubtedly the right one for both Opera Software and its users, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness to see Presto go. When it was released, it was the fastest and the most standards compliant engine in the market. It did a lot of good things, for Opera as well as the web. Hallvord Steen fittingly paid homage to the mere bits and bytes that was Presto.

Its software personality was one of surprising brilliance combined with equally surprising shortcomings. It was resourceful, forward-looking and often ahead of its time yet at other times neglectful of even long-stated needs and requirements. It had some hissy fits and temperamental interaction with other software, especially certain plug-ins. Nevertheless it carried out great work and brought the company that cared for it 300 million users, over the years being ported to an incredible number of platforms.

Cleanup Your Facebook and Other Network Profiles with MyPermissions Cleaner

While Facebook’s one-click login button makes it really easy for users to signup for new apps and services, it also makes it ludicrously easy for malicious entities to get their hands on your private info. All they need to do is to create a quiz to lure you into sharing your Facebook profile data.

In a previous article we reviewed Privacyfix, which automatically identifies and highlights security issues in your Facebook and Google settings. One of the threats that Privacyfix identifies is app permissions. However, it doesn’t provide a quick way to withdraw access you have previously granted to various apps. Chances are that over the years you have allowed hundreds of apps to access your Facebook profile. Manually delisting them is likely to take quite a while. Thankfully, there is another browser extension, which can take care of this problem.

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MyPermissions Cleaner is a handy extension for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox, which scans your Facebook profile and lists all apps that have access to your Facebook information, and allows you to revoke access to all apps with a single click. Ideally, you will not want to revoke access to all apps. For example, if you are an avid Instagram and Tweekdeck user, it makes sense to let these apps be. Thankfully, MyPermissions allows you to add select apps and services to a whitelist (Trusted Apps) with just a couple of clicks. Once you have whitelisted the apps you need, you can get rid of the rest of them with a single click. However, if you have several hundred apps in your list, then it might be easier to simply revoke permissions for everything and add back the apps that you use as and when required. MyPermissions Cleaner does a good job at exposing exactly what sort of info each app has access to, and allows you to filter apps by their access levels. The only trouble is that the extension doesn’t always work perfectly, and sometimes gets stuck while deleting an app. However, a page refresh generally takes care of the issue.

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It’s not just Facebook alone, MyPermissions Cleaner currently also supports Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Dropbox, Foursquare, Instagram, Flickr, AOL, and Windows Live. For each of these services the app works in an identical manner, and offers to cleanup your app permissions. If you have never bothered to look into the apps that have access to you profiles on various networks, go ahead and do it now. Let this be your little end of the year cleaning.

[ Download MyPermissions Cleaner ]

Lock Down Your Facebook and Google Accounts with Privacyfix

Way back in 2010, just as the controversy surrounding Facebook’s Open Graph was exploding, we had reviewed a nifty bookmarklet called ReclaimPrivacy that could automatically scan your Facebook settings and highlight areas of concern. Recently I came across a Firefox and Chrome extension called PrivacyFix, which does the same thing, but better.

As soon as you install the extension, it will scan your currently-logged-in Facebook and Google accounts, as well as your browser cookies to identify privacy threats. Once it finishes scanning, you will see a neat report, which highlights potential areas of concern. Privacyfix explains each of the identified issues, and assists you in fixing them.

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Privacy Fix also maintains a database of popular websites that track and retain user data. For websites with an opt-out policy it offers to send a mail requesting to opt-you out. Additionally, it can delete existing tracking cookies, and block tracking cookies from being placed in the future.

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Privacyfix is a simple, hassle-free solution that goes a long way towards avoiding accidental privacy breaches on social networks. Both Facebook and Google offer great privacy tools. Unfortunately, they are either difficult to find, or too confusing for most users. By automatically identifying and highlighting potential issues, Privacyfix makes things easier for the user. It’s a tool that even your parents could use with confidence. Go ahead and download it. There is no reason not to.

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[ Download Privacyfix ]

Teenager Wins $60,000 at Pwnium 2 by Hacking Google Chrome

The second installment of Google’s hacking fest Pwnium has just wrapped up, and once again Google Chrome’s security features were successfully bypassed. Earlier this year, Chrome fell for the first time when VUPEN managed to exploit Chrome within five minutes at the first installment of Pwnium. During the same event, two more hackers – Pinkie Pie and Sergey Glazunov, managed to humble Chrome and bag the top award of $60,000.

Google-Chrome-PwniumThe second edition of Pwnium was organized as a part of the ‘Hack in the Box 2012′ security conference held in Kuala Lumpur. This time around, Chrome’s sandboxing mechanism was defeated by exploiting two flaws – an “SVG use-after-free” and an “IPC arbitrary write”. The exploiter was once again Pinkie Pie. Since his exploit depended entirely on bugs within Chrome to achieve arbitrary code execution, it qualified for Google’s highest award level as a “full Chrome exploit”, and won him $60,000 and a free Chromebook.

Detailed explanation of the bugs leveraged by Pinkie Pie is still not available. However, the good news is that Google has already patched the vulnerability, so even if you use Chrome, you are safe. Google deserves a round of applause for not only encouraging the security community to discover bugs in Chrome, but also for patching the vulnerability in less than twelve hours after its disclosure.

Google Celebrates Its 14th Birthday

It seems hard for me to fathom that Google turns 14 today. Google was officially incorporated on September 4, 1998 and the world has never been the same since. What started out so simply, as evidenced by the picture below, is now the driving force behind much of the web.

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Google’s Beta Page 1998 (credit: Anakin101:Wikipedia)

Google started as a research project at Stanford University. Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to develop a new page ranking technology that analyzed back links to webpages to score their importance. According to Wikipedia, because Page and Brin wanted to show that they were serving large amounts of data, they originally wanted to call the search engine “googol”. Googol is a large number represented with a 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Somehow, through a misspelling the company became “Google” instead.

Google sure has come a long way since those early days of the web. I remember how impressed I was when I first used Google’s search engine. I was just blown away with how accurate the results were and with how many results were presented. It is obvious that I wasn’t the only one as the word “Google” actually became a verb to represent you were searching for something. Google grew exponentially and became the search engine of choice for most of the world. In 1999, Google came up with the genius idea to sell text-based ads on its website based on keywords. It was a great idea because it contextualized ad results to the consumer, but because they were text-based, they loaded quickly on the screen. For those of you who remember dial-up, speed was everything back then.

It’s hard to imagine a world without Google anymore. Since their initial IPO in 2004, Google has branched out to find new revenue streams and innovate in other areas. Their raging success has not been met without opposition, however. It seems they have been sued by every major player in the Internet industry for some reason or another. I guess that is the price for fame. Let’s just take a second and think about some of Google’s contributions to the world:

  1. Gmail – Google got into the webmail game in 2004. One of the biggest contributions it made to email was grouping messages into conversations instead of just listing messages as they came in. They also were the first to offer contextual ads based on content in your inbox. That was met with more than a little controversy.
  2. Adwords – Google has made a killing on pay-per-click and Adwords, but let’s face it, so have a lot of web sites. People participating in Google’s ad programs have prospered quite a bit.
  3. Chrome – Here is another September birthday. In September 2008, Chrome debuted as an alternative to Internet Explorer. Tabbed browsing and being able to search directly from the address bar were a couple of new offerings that Chrome made available. Though,  Firefox probably had tabbed browsing by then too. Chrome is a fast and secure alternative to Internet Explorer.
  4. Google Apps – There are so many apps, it’s hard to list them here. However, the main draw of Google apps is that you can create and share documents and spreadsheets on the web. They don’t require expensive desktop software to run and you don’t have to be tethered to your computer to use them.
  5. Android – As of this month, Android accounts for 52% marketshare of smartphones. The Android tablets and smartphones are simply dominating the market and giving Apple all the competition it wants.
  6. Google Doodles – How can I not mention the Google doodles? Google doodles started as a result of Page and Brin attending a festival and they redesigned the logo as sort of an “out of office” greeting. Their website http://www.google.com/doodles/about tells a lot about the history. I look forward to major birthdays and events when Google publishes their new doodles.

This just barely scratches the surface of all the contributions that Google has made to our world. Perhaps most notable is their commitment to their unofficial motto “Don’t Be Evil”. In a way, I believe the existence of Google has kept others in the industry honest. At the very least, they have busted up the Microsoft monopoly on the web. Hopefully, Google will continue to embrace a culture of doing good in our world and will achieve success for many years to come!