Google Cloud adds three new GCP regions

Today at Google Cloud Next in San Francisco, the company announced three new regions for its Google Cloud Platform. The Netherlands, Montreal and California are set to join the rapidly growing list of host locations.

The move benefits users by allowing more flexibility for where users keep their resources. Being able to utilize additional local infrastructure can decrease latency and increase the possibilities for decentralization.

Google still plans to add São Paulo, Finland, Frankfurt, London, Mumbai, Singapore and Sydney in the future. Most recently, Google added Tokyo and Oregon to its list of regions last year. Today’s new batch brings the total number of operating GCP regions to 10.

 Across the industry, Amazon and Microsoft have been bolstering their infrastructure efforts, as well. Azure now has 34 regions around the world, including two new facilities in Korea. Amazon Web Services offers 40 separate Availability Zones across 15 global regions.

5 tips for Google+ Collections

Google+ recently unveiled a new feature, called Collections, that allows users to start categorizing their posts, photos and videos by topic. Collections differ from Pages or Communities, in that you are the only person modifying the content, and the posts will appear in your profile stream for followers. This feature is currently available for Android and the Web only, with iOS to follow later, according to Google.

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To get you started, Google has created a GIF (seen above) that displays how to create your first collection (from the Android perspective). The steps on the Web are just as simple: click on Home menu in the upper left-hand corner, choose Collections, then click the Create a collection button. Fill out the name, set the visibility permission, then click Create. When the collection page loads, click Customize to change the header image and page accent color.

Now that you have a collection of your own, here are five tips for using this new feature:

  • Since you cannot change the visibility setting for a collection, you may want to consider choosing a specific circle of people you can edit later.
  • You are automatically following the collections of people in your circles. Head to the Collections area on Google+ to manage which collections you follow.
  • Previous posts can be moved into new collections you have created by clicking the arrow to the right of the share icon. Only public posts can be moved to public collections.
  • If you have several posts you want to move to a collection, do them all at once so Google groups them and prevents you from spamming your followers.
  • You can share an entire collection by visiting that collection’s page and copying the URL, or by clicking the share button (arrow) to post it on your stream.

Now you’re set to start making and organizing your collections on Google+. Have another tip for this new feature? Share it in the comments below.

How to select multiple languages for Google voice search

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Google has pushed voice search and actions to the forefront over the last few years, introducing features like the Google Now Launcher and the “OK Google” command. Many phones now let you initiate a search from any screen, and a few can even be woken up from slumber with the trigger phrase.

However, when you do a voice search, Google only listens for your one default language. If you speak multiple languages, you can change that in a few taps.

Head into the main Google app settings (open the Google app, or swipe over to the Google Now cards, then select Settings in the flyout menu on the left). From there, open the Voice section. The menu item you’re looking for is predictably called Languages. This will open up a new selection menu with dozens of languages, each one with a checkbox. You can select up to five of them for your phone to recognize on the fly, but make sure you long-press to pick a default language as well.

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Just pick the languages you speak.

Selecting secondary languages allows you to switch back and forth with a limit of one language per search. Basically, Google detects the language you’re speaking for each search, then plugs in the right translation engine. If you have voice output enabled, the device will also speak in the detected language.

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All I remember of high school Spanish.

You won’t be able to mix and match words from multiple languages in the same query, but this is still much more convenient than going into the settings each time you want to use another tongue.

Google Significantly Upgrades Contacts

Google just released a preview of its new Contacts experience, which comes across as a major upgrade right off the bat, unlike other recent next-generation email-related offerings from the company.

As Google says, the new experience makes it easier for you to keep track of the people you know and get the info you need, fast. A quick click on the preview link pretty much confirmed that for me. Whereas in the past, my Contacts have always been kind of a jumbled mess comprised largely of people I rarely interact with, the new experience puts the people I actually know and care about front and center, and with virtually no effort on my part.

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The new Contacts puts together all your contacts, circles, and the people you talk to most in Gmail.

“As the people you know change jobs, cities, and names, it can be tough to stay up to date with their latest information,” says product manager Sean Purcell. “The new Contacts ensures that the info you see is still accurate and ready to use by blending your contact’s Google profile information with the stuff you already have.”

The product will also now show you your most recent emails and meetings with a person right in their contact card. This could be tremendously helpful for recalling who people even are, and what your relationship with them was even based on in the first place. For people who do a lot of emailing that’s a pretty great feature. This doesn’t actually appear to be working for all contacts for me at the moment, but this is only a preview.

Google says you can expect to find the preview in Gmail sometime in the next few weeks, but you can take a look here in the meantime. It’s not available for Google Apps customers yet, but it will be eventually.

In some ways, the new Contacts experience follows a similar path as Inbox by Google, the company’s latest attempt at rethinking email. Like Inbox, Contacts is making better use of Google’s various offerings and putting them together to make the product more useful. In my opinion, Contacts is a more practical attempt at this. It’s certainly not as radical a change as Inbox is compared to the familiar Gmail experience, though both do have their helpful traits.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think the new Contacts will be much easier to swallow for the masses of Gmail users than Inbox necessarily will be. Granted, there are quite a few people who do think Inbox is an improvement to the Gmail experience.

Google May Start Offering .App Domains

One of the hottest generic TLDs up for grabs by some of the Internet’s biggest companies was .App. According to reports, Google has now won that TLD, and is paying a whopping $25 million for it.

According to Domain Name Wire, that’s likely a record-breaking price for a TLD, and Google has been battling 12 other companies, including Amazon, for its rights. With those rights, Google will now be able to offer other businesses access to domains that end in .app, just as they have started doing with other domains. Domain Name Wire reports:

With the domain in hand, it’s possible Google can limit registrations to companies that have an app in Google Play, or use the domains to point directly to app listings in the store. However, its application suggests that it will allow the domain name to be more universally used:

The mission of the proposed gTLD, .app, is to provide a dedicated domain space for application developers. The term “app” is associated with a wide variety of applications, including mobile applications, web- and browser-based applications, cloud-hosted applications and even desktop applications. Charleston Road Registry expects uses of the gTLD will include a wide variety of uses across all of these types of applications, not limited to any specific platform or provider. The proposed gTLD will enhance consumer choice by providing new availability in the second-level domain space in which application developers can deliver new content and offerings. It also creates new layers of organization on the Internet and signals the kind of content available in the domain.

Google Registry has so far launched three TLDs including .soy (for U.S. Hispanics), .みんな (in Japanese), and most recently, .how, which it describes as a domain for teaching. We delved more into that one here.

The Google Registry site lists TLDs that are “coming next,” and these include: .DAD, .ESQ, .HERE, .MEME, .PROF, .ZIP, .ADS, .DAY, .FLY, .MOV, .RSVP, .BOO, .EAT, .FOO, .ING, and .NEW. The company actually already has descriptions for what each of these are for:

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.App is absent from that list, but it’s possible that Google simply hasn’t added it yet because it just won it. It will be interesting to see if it is added to the list soon, because if it’s not, that would suggest that Google intends to keep it for itself for something like what Domain Wire mentioned.

It seems likely that Google would sell the domains to third-parties, however, as it could make money on what could be a coveted new TLD that way. The app ecosystem only continues to grow massively, and Google’s own efforts are fostering that growth on Android.

Earlier this week, Google announced that it is expanding paid search into the Google Play store, which will give Google a new (yet familiar) revenue stream, and give apps more opportunities for discoverability.

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That’s only in pilot testing mode now, but I don’t really see a scenario in which this doesn’t become an available offering to everyone down the road.

Google also announced that it is making some changes to how it ranks content in mobile search results. It’s factoring in mobile-friendly content for one. It’s also using information from indexed apps as a signal for signed-in users who have the apps installed on their devices.

Google shutters Orkut, but don’t worry about Plus (yet)

Google original attempt at social, Orkut, has been shuttered. Officially dead to us, those who visit the Orkut page will be redirected to a support page. Though it may not have had an impact stateside, Orkut’s closure is felt elsewhere.


Orkut was popular in Brazil and India, where the tone of this shutdown is much different. In those areas, media are penning heavy-hearted soliloquies to Orkut, which was typically more popular than any other social medium, Facebook included.

If you’ve got pictures in your Orkut account you’d like to keep, the support page can help. Similarly, you can view public discussions in the community archive. If for some reason you want to delete your content, that’s also easy to do from the support page.

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Some are calling Orkut’s shutdown a harbinger for Google+, Google’s latest effort at social. While they were once similarly focussed, and widely overlapping, Plus has quickly morphed into a search information repository. That’s been highlighted recently by a “focus on the user” campaign in Europe, which does a good job illustrating just how Google integrates Plus info into Search.

Google+ hasn’t really caught on a social platform, and neither did Orkut — at least on a broad scale. Google+ was able to switch gears a bit and angle for more data, while Orkut is now shut. It’s not clear if Google will shutter Plus any time soon (though they’re breaking it from other services, which isn’t a good sign), but at least they realize they’re not great at social.

A big Nexus 6 might be a big mistake for Google

Google’s Nexus lineup of devices is an interesting segment of the Android market. It both provides a low-cost alternative to consumers and lets google thumb their nose at carriers. It’s also a hit-and-miss proposition most times (for various reasons), with google making a few mistakes along the way, and the latest Nexus smartphone may be the biggest mistake yet.


If you’re buying the rumors, the latest Nexus smartphone — the Nexus 6, unofficially officially — is going to be a dynamo, just like those which came before it. The spec sheet is pretty spectacular, and we can safely assume the pricing will be equally impressive. This time around, it’s Motorola (probably; again, nothing confirmed just yet) building the Google standard for Android.

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And that’s the problem. The Nexus 6 will be Google’s Android flagship — and if those rumors end up being accurate, it’s going to have a 6-inch screen. According to the reliable Android blog Android Police, that’s precisely what it will be (their rendering of the Nexus 6 is above).

Going from 4.7-inches on the Nexus 4 to 5-inches for the Nexus 5 screen wasn’t a radical departure. A few tenths of an inch isn’t something we’ll get too annoyed with, but a full inch?

Not only does that size increase deviate Nexus from smartphone standards, it takes the Nexus 6 out of most hands — almost literally. At 5-inches, the Nexus 5 is a bit large for smaller hands to adequately maneuver single-palmed. A 6-inch monster is going to be nearly impossible.

Larger phones like Samsung’s Note 3 (and soon Note 4) don’t crest the 6-inch mark. When Sony did it with the Xperia Z Ultra, we scoffed. Hard. All of us. “Who would want a phone that big?!”, we all wondered aloud.

If — and that’s still a big “IF” — Google and Motorola deliver on a 6-inch Nexus 6, it’s going to be a tough sell. Not only do they need to find a way to convince a public uninterested in a massive smartphone to buy one, but they probably need to diversify their existing and popular Nexus lineup.

Google doesn’t keep older Nexus devices around, so once the Nexus 6 hits, you can probably kiss the Nexus 5 goodbye. Google has a very popular tablet in the Nexus 7, and an incoming Nexus 9 (again, rumors — but convincing ones).

The Nexus lineup has always meshed well; you have an appropriately sized phone, a smaller tablet, and a larger tablet. They gave up on the large tablet almost immediately, but their Nexus 7 has been a massive hit. Google has complimented that by keeping Nexus phones appropriately sized, too.

Now we seem to be cruising for a larger phone and larger tablet. Is this the new Nexus from Google? Is the Nexus 7 going away, supplanted by a phone nearly as large and a tablet that has an equally larger footprint? If they do keep the smaller tablet alongside a bigger phone and slightly larger tablet, why not keep a five-inch phone around, too?

I don’t think (I’d even go so far as to guarantee) a 6-inch smartphone will speak to as many people as the Nexus 5 did. The Nexus 5 was at the precipice of the larger phone movement, accompanied by the HTC One (M8), Samsung Galaxy S5, and LG G3. A Nexus 6 — with a 6-inch screen — is simply a step too far.

A Nexus phone with a 6-inch screen is a flat-out mistake. Not because it’s too hard, as in Google/Motorola can’t make a nice one. It’s a mistake because most people just won’t want a phone that large (it won’t matter if it’s slim or the bezels are thin), and Google typically doesn’t make two Nexus devices in the same year.

If Google has a second Nexus handset that’s slipped under the radar somehow, that’s a triumph. It may also be their saving grace for the Nexus lineup in 2014/2015.

Shocker! Google Glass Distracts Drivers

Think you can safely text while driving with Google Glass? Think again.

A new study from the University of Central Florida found that Google’s high-tech headpiece is a clear distraction to drivers. The study, conducted in cooperation with the Air Force Research Laboratory, offers the first scientific look at the effects of using Google Glass to text while operating a vehicle.

“Texting with either a smartphone or Glass will cause distraction and should be avoided while driving” UCF researcher Ben Sawyer said in a statement.

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Sawyer and his team asked 40 twenty-somethings to drive in car simulator with either Glass or a smartphone, and then react to a vehicle slamming its breaks ahead. The researchers then compared reactions on each device to times when the participants were just driving without multitasking.

“Those using Glass were no better at hitting their brakes in time,” the researchers found. On a more positive note, however, Glass users were able to regain control of their vehicle faster than smartphone users after a traffic incident.

“Glass did help drivers in our study recover more quickly,” Sawyer said. “We hope that Glass points the way to technology that can help deliver information with minimal risk.”

Still, Glass did not improve their response time to the event itself, he pointed out. Messaging with either device negatively impacted driving performance.

“Compared to those just driving, multitaskers reacted more slowly, preserved less headway during the brake event, and subsequently adopted greater following distances,” Sawyer said.

The new research comes after a West Virginia state legislator last year introduced a bill that would ban the use of head-mounted gadgets while driving — a measure that was inspired by Google Glass. Several other states have since followed suit. The U.K. government has also been taking steps to ban Google Glass behind the wheel.

At the time, Google said it is “putting a lot of thought into the design of Glass because new technologies always raise new issues. We actually believe there is tremendous potential to improve safety on our roads and reduce accidents. As always, feedback is welcome.”

Google Tries to Make Ads Prettier on Mobile

Ads can be annoying no matter the platform, but they can be particularly bothersome on mobile devices where an errant tap or a too-small “close” prompt can land you in pre-roll hell.

Those ads aren’t going away, but Google on Monday revealed new mobile display ad formats and advertiser tools intended to make the ad experience on mobile a bit easier on the eye.

In the past, marketers have simply shrunk their existing display ads for mobile, making for some ugly advertising. Other times, display ads for the Web don’t even run on mobile devices or mobile browsers.

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“But now, a new generation of display ads is changing how advertisers engage with consumers on mobile devices,” Jonathan Alferness, director of product management for mobile display ads at Google, wrote in a blog post.

The new ad types include “Mobile lightbox Engagement Ads,” which will dynamically resize to fit any ad and device size; ads that stay put even when you scroll down the page, and a “magazine style” text ad format. Google is also expanding “TrueView” video ads, which have already been running in some gaming apps, to even more apps in the AdMob network.

Meanwhile, Google is also releasing some tools to help marketers with their mobile ads, including an auto-resizer that will automatically create new sizes of image ads, a Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool for creating HTML5 versions of Flash ads, and a tool that lets you build HTML5 and in-app ads “in minutes.”

If you’re a marketer, these new ads and tools will be available across the Google Display Network, the AdMob Network, and DoubleClick. They’re designed specifically for mobile environments, and will be rolling out in coming months.

The news comes as Facebook makes moves to expand its advertising reach across the Web with the relaunch its Atlas Advertiser Suite, which it acquired from Microsoft last year. The service essentially allows advertisers to tap into Facebook’s collection of users to direct ads at people via other websites and mobile apps, creating a new revenue stream for Facebook.

Google Now Launcher now available for all devices running Android 4.1 or higher

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Google Now Launcher arrived along with the Google Nexus 5 running Android 4.4 (KitKat) so that you can directly access Google Now from the home screen. Back in February Google released the Google Now Launcher on Google Play for its Nexus and Google Play Edition devices running Android 4.4 (KitKat). Today Google has released the Google Now Launcher for all devices running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or higher. Even though you could side-load Google Now launcher APK on other devices before, the Google Play app would offer you instant updates.

Features of Google Now Launcher

  • Google Now on your home screen – it’s easier than ever to get just the right information at just the right time.
  • Just say “Ok Google” – when you’re on your home screen, just say “Ok Google” to trigger voice input. Then say your search query. Or tell your phone what to do, like send a text message, get directions, or play a song.
  • Faster search – tap the search box and you can enter your query immediately.
  • Easy access to your favorite Google products and services, like Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.
  • Larger viewing area – the status and navigation bars are now translucent, so your wallpaper pops from every pixel, and is even visible when you expand your apps drawer (when supported by device).
  • Intuitive wallpaper picker – select any image that’s stored on your device, or in the cloud. Position and preview your wallpaper before you set it.