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Main article: Gmail

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Say goodbye to Inbox by Gmail

21:35 | 12 September

With the launch of the new Gmail, the writing was on the wall, but today Google made it official: Inbox by Gmail, the company’s experimental email client for Gmail, will shut down at the end of March 2019.

Google says it’s making this change to put its focus “solely on Gmail.” While that makes sense, it’s a shame to see Inbox sail into the setting sun, given that it pioneered many of the features that have now become part of the new Gmail.

I would have loved to see Google continue to experiment with Inbox instead. That, after all, was one of the reasons the company started the Inbox project to begin with. It’s hard to try radical experiments with a service that has a billion users, after all. Today, however, Google now seems to be willing to try new things right in Gmail, too. Smart Compose, for example, made its debut in the new Gmail (and many pundits correctly read that as a sign that Inbox was on the chopping block).

While the new Gmail now has most of Inbox’s features, one that is sorely missing is trip bundles. This useful feature, which automatically groups all of your flight, hotel, event and car reservations into a single bundle, is one of Inbox’s best features. Our understanding is that Google plans to bring this to Gmail early next year — hopefully well before Inbox shuts down.

So there you have it. Inbox for Gmail will shut down in six months, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Google resurrected the idea in a few years to try some other email experiments. Until then, here is Google’s guide to moving from Inbox to Gmail.

 


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Google rebuked by Senate Intelligence Committee for not sending Page or Pichai to testify

17:10 | 5 September

Alphabet’s decision to decline to send its CEO Larry Page to today’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing — to answer questions about what social media platforms are doing to thwart foreign influence operations intended to sow political division in the U.S. — has earned it a stinging rebuke from the committee’s vice chair, Sen. Mark Warner.

“I’m deeply disappointed that Google – one of the most influential digital platforms in the world – chose not to send its own top corporate leadership to engage this committee,” said Warner in his opening remarks, after praising Facebook and Twitter for agreeing to send their COO and CEO respectively.

Alphabet offered its SVP of global affairs and chief legal officer, Kent Walker, to testify in front of lawmakers but declined to send CEO Page or Google CEO Sundar Pichai .

Committee chairman, Richard Burr, was slightly less stinging in his opening remarks but also professed himself “disappointed that Google decided against sending the right senior level executive”.

“If the answer is regulation let’s have an honest dialogue about what that looks like. If the key is more resources or legislation that facilitates information sharing and government co-operation let’s get it out there,” he concluded. “If it’s national security policies that punish the kind of information and influence operations that we’re talking about this morning to the point that they aren’t even considered in foreign capitals then let’s acknowledge that. But whatever the answer is we’ve got to do this collaboratively and we’ve got to do this now. That’s our responsibility to the American people.”

Warner said committee members have “difficult questions about structural vulnerabilities on a number of Google’s platforms that we will need answered“, calling out a number of Google products by name and identifying abuse associated with those services.

From Google Search, which continues to have problems surfacing absurd conspiracies….To YouTube, where Russian-backed disinformation agents promoted hundreds of divisive videos….To Gmail, where state-sponsored operatives attempt countless hacking attempts, Google has an immense responsibility in this space.  Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion.”

We’ve reached out to Google for a response.

Warner concluded his opening remarks with some policy suggestions for regulating social media platforms, saying he wanted to get the companies’ constructive thoughts on issues such as whether platforms should identify bots to their users; whether there’s a public interest in ensuring more anonymized data is available to researchers and academics to help identify potential problems and misuse; why terms of service are “so difficult to find and nearly impossible to read; why US lawmakers shouldn’t adopt ideas such as data portability, data minimization, or first party consent — which are already baked into EU privacy law — and what further accountability there should be related to platforms’ “flawed advertising model”.

 


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Yahoo still scans your emails for ads — even if its rivals won’t

23:01 | 28 August

You’re not the only one reading your emails.

A deep dive in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday dug out new details on a massive email scanning operation by Oath, the Verizon-owned subsidiary that’s the combined business of AOL and Yahoo. The email scanning program analyzes over 200 million AOL and Yahoo inboxes for data that can be sold to advertisers. (Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon by way of Oath.)

The logic goes that by learning about its users, the internet giant can hone its ad targeting effort to display the most relevant ads.

But where other major email providers have bailed from email scanning amid privacy scandals and security issues, Oath remains the outlier.

Google ended its ad-targeting email scanning operation across its consumer Gmail service last year — a decision lauded after facing criticism for years over the practice — though the company still uses machine learning to help you reply to emails. Meanwhile, Microsoft told TechCrunch in a statement that it does “not use email content for ad targeting in any way, anywhere in Microsoft.” And Apple has never scanned its customers’ inboxes for advertising, though its privacy policy says it can access your data for law enforcement purposes or for more vague reasons like “issues of public importance.”

So it’s basically just Oath, then.

Scanning the inboxes of its hundreds of millions of email users is a gutsy move for the year-old internet giant, which prior to its rebranding was responsible for two data breaches at Yahoo exposing over thee billion users’ data and a separate breach at AOL in 2014. Yahoo reportedly built a secret customer email scanning tool at the behest of the US intelligence community, which led to the departure of former Yahoo infosec chief Alex Stamos, who until recently was Facebook’s chief security officer.

Although the email scanning program isn’t new — announced earlier this year — it does go deeper than Gmail’s scanning ever did.

“Yahoo mined users’ emails in part to discover products they bought through receipts from e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com,” said the WSJ. “In 2015, Amazon stopped including full itemized receipts in the emails it sends customers, partly because the company didn’t want Yahoo and others gathering that data for their own use.”

Although some content is excluded from the scanning — such as health and medical information — it remains to be seen how (or even if) Oath can exclude other kinds of sensitive data from its customers’ inboxes, like bank transfers and stock receipts.

Yahoo Mail’s privacy policy says email accounts are subject to “manual review,” which allows certain Oath employees access to inboxes.

TechCrunch asked Oath and its parent Verizon about what assurances they could provide that confidential emails and information won’t be collected or used in any way. We also asked how consent was obtained from users in Europe, where data protection rules under the newly-implemented GDPR regulations are stricter.

Neither Verizon or Oath responded by our deadline.

It should go without saying, email isn’t the most sensitive or secure communications medium, and inboxes should never be assumed to be private — not least from law enforcement and the companies themselves.

Deleting your account might be overkill, especially if you don’t want anyone to hijack your email address once it’s recycled. But if there’s ever been a time to find a better inbox, now might be it.

 


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Google’s G Suite apps and Calendar are getting Gmail’s side panels

20:32 | 22 August

One of the best features of the new Gmail is its quick-access side panel with easy access to Google Calendar, Tasks, Keep and your Gmail extensions. Now, Google is bringing this same functionality to Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drawings, too.

In Google Calendar, you’ll be able to quickly access Keep and Tasks, while in the rest of the G Suite apps, you’ll get easy access to Calendar, Keep and Tasks.

In Gmail, the side panel also brings up access to various G Suite extensions that you may have installed from the marketplace. It doesn’t look like that’s possible in Docs and Calendar right now, though it’s probably only a matter of time before there will be compatible extensions for those products, too. By then, we’ll likely see a ‘works with Google Calendar’ section and support for other G Suite apps in the marketplace, too.

I’m already seeing this in my personal Google Calendar, but not in Google Docs, so this looks to be a slow rollout. The official word is that paying G Suite subscribers on the rapid release schedule should get access now, with those on the slower release schedule getting access in two weeks.

 


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Gmail’s undo send feature hits Android

17:16 | 21 August

Four months after arriving on desktop, Gmail’s potentially job/relationship/self-respect-saving self-destruction feature is finally available on Android. The new feature, which was spotted by Android Police, arrived as part of the version 8.2 update.

It works similarly to its desktop counterpart. When you send a message, a small progress bar pops up at the bottom of the screen, with the word “Undo” on the right side.

From there, you’ve got approximately seven seconds to reconsider your life choices through a cinematic-style montage of increasingly horrific butterfly effects that will unfold over the coming months and weeks until you’re left dead in by the side of the road in a pit of jagged glass and self-loathing.

All of that because of one stupid email. You’re better than that, friend.

Go with Plan B by clicking Undo, and it will bring you back to the body of said email as a draft. The future is bright and wide open. See, was that so hard? I’m not saying you shouldn’t send any emails, ever. That’s just silly. I’m just saying choose your words a bit more careful next time is all. I’m looking out for you here. 

The feature is live now, though it appears to only work with emails sent from Gmail addresses within the app.

 


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Gmail for iOS and Android now lets you turn off conversation view

20:30 | 7 August

When Gmail launched with its threaded conversation view feature as the default and only option, some people sure didn’t like it and Google quickly allowed users to turn it off. On mobile, though, you were stuck with it. But here’s some good news for you conversation view haters: you can now turn it off on mobile, too.

The ability to turn off conversation view is now rolling out to all Gmail app users on iOS and Android . So if you want Gmail to simply show you all emails as they arrive, without grouping them to”make them easier to digest and follow,” you’re now free to do so.

If you’ve always just left conversation view on by default, maybe now is a good time to see if you like the old-school way of looking at your email better. I personally prefer conversation view since it helps me keep track of conversations (and I get too many emails already), but it’s pretty much a personal preference.

To make the change, simply tap on your account name in the Settings menu and look for the “conversation view” check box. That’s it. Peace restored.

 


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Dropbox add-on makes it easier to manage Gmail attachments

21:00 | 25 July

When Dropbox announced it was integrating its storage product with GSuite in March, it was more of a heads up that the two companies were working together. Today at Google Next, Dropbox announced, a new add-on to manage Gmail attachments in Dropbox.

Ketan Nayak, a product manager at Dropbox says this is the first concrete piece to come out of that earlier announcement. “Back in March, we announced a broader partnership with Google to bring about integrations and product initiatives across a range of different Google Cloud products. And what we wanted to share with you today was that we’re bringing one of the first [pieces] in this product partnership, the Dropbox add-on for Gmail, to GA,” he said.

The partnership makes sense for the two companies as they share lots of overlapping users with more than 50 percent of Dropbox users also using G Suite. Being able to access Dropbox without leaving Gmail or other G Suite tool could potentially save users time and effort spent copying and pasting and switching programs.

Instead, there is a direct integration now that displays the attachments in a side panel after which you can save them if you so choose directly into your Dropbox, and the experience is the same in the mobile app or on the web, Nayak explained.

Dropbox displays the attachments in the email in a side panel for easy access. Photo: Dropbox

“We created this cross-browser, cross-platform solution that doesn’t exist today, especially on mobile, where a lot of our users live and work across these different tools. It’s been really hard for users to navigate in and out of different apps, and we really think of this add-on as a first step that enables users across our two platforms to start start working more seamlessly,” Nayek explained.

Indeed, other integrations between products are already in the works including one that will allow users to insert a link to a file stored in Dropbox in an email without leaving the program. “Users can share and generate links to Dropbox content while composing an email,” he said. While that particular functionality isn’t ready yet, the company was demonstrating it on stage at Google Next today and it should be available soon.

Kayak says, these announcements are really just a starting point of what they hope will be a much more comprehensive set of integrations between the two company’s products in the future.

 


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Google Drive will hit a billion users this week

19:29 | 25 July

Google loves to talk about how it has seven products with more than a billion users. Those are its flagship search service, Gmail, Chrome, Google Maps, YouTube, Android and the Google Play Store. Indeed, Android actually has more than 2 billion users now. Later this week, we will be able to add an eighth service to this list: Google Drive, the company’s online file storage service that launched back in 2012.

The company made the announcement at its Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco — though somehow it doesn’t want to commit to saying that Drive has already hit that billion user number, or when exactly it’ll do so. “Later this week,” is about as good as it gets right now, but if you want to buy some fireworks to celebrate, you probably still have a day or two to prepare.

It’s actually been a while since we last got any updated stats about Google Drive. At last year’s Google I/O conference in May, the company said that Drive now stored 2 trillion files and that it had over 800 million daily active users. At this year’s Google I/O, the company didn’t offer any updated numbers for Drive, likely because it was still waiting to cross the billion users number.

Over the course of the last year, Google launched a number of business-focused features for Drive, including Team Drives and Drive File Stream, as well as new machine learning-powered features for all users. The company also launched its new Drive-centric backup and sync tool for Mac and PC last summer.

 


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Google’s big redesign for Gmail is now generally available for enterprise G Suite customers

19:00 | 25 July

Google is running its playbook again of releasing big new products (or redesigns) to its average users and then moving what works over to its enterprise services, G Suite, today by making the Gmail redesign generally available to G Suite customers.

Gmail’s redesign launched for consumers in April earlier this year, including new features like self-destructing messages, email snoozing and other new features in addition to a little bit of a new look for the service that has more than 1 billion users. All those services are useful for consumers, but they might actually have more palatable use cases within larger companies that have to have constant communication with anywhere from a few to thousands of employees. Email hell is a common complaint for, well, basically every single user on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else people can speak publicly to any kind of network, and any attempts to tackle that — that work, at least — could have pretty substantial ramifications.

Google is directly competing with other enterprise mail services, especially as it looks to make G Suite a go-to set of enterprise tools for larger companies. It’s a nice, consistent business that can grow methodically, which is a kind of revenue stream that Wall Street loves and can cover the potential trip-ups in other divisions. Google has also made a big push in its cloud efforts, especially on the server front with its competitors for Microsoft and Azure — which doesn’t make it that surprising that Google is announcing this at what is effectively its cloud conference, Google Cloud Next 2018 in San Francisco.

The new Gmail uses machine learning to find threat indicators across a huge bucket of messages to tackle some of the lowest-hanging fruit, like potential phishing attacks, that could compromise a company’s security and potentially cost millions of dollars. Google says those tools protect users from almost 10 million spam and malicious emails every minute, and the new update also gives G Suite users access to those security features, as well as offline access and the redesigned security warnings that Google included in its consumer-focused redesign.

Whether companies will adopt this redesign — or at least what rate they will — remains to be seen, as even small tweaks to any kind of software that has a massive amount of engagement can potentially interrupt the workflow of users. We’ve seen that happen before with Facebook users losing it over small changes to News Feed, and while enterprise Gmail is definitely a different category, Google has to take care to ensure that those small changes don’t interrupt the everyday use cases for enterprise users. If companies are going to pay Google for something like this, they have to get it right.

 


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G Suite now lets businesses choose whether their data is stored in the US or Europe

19:00 | 24 July

Data sovereignty is a major issue for many major companies, especially in Europe. So far, Google’s G Suite, which includes products like Gmail, Google Docs and Sheets, didn’t give users any control over where their data was stored at rest, but that’s changing today. As the company announced at its Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, G Suite users can now choose whether their primary data for select G Suite apps: in the U.S. or in Europe.

These new data regions are now available to all G Suite Business and Enterprise customers at no additional cost.

“What this means is that for organizations with data- or geo-control requirements, G Suite will now let them choose where a copy of their data for G Suite apps like Gmail should be stored at rest,” said G Suite VP of product management David Thacker.

Google is also adding a tool that makes it easy to move data to another region as employees move between jobs and organizations.

“Given PwC is a global network with operations in 158 countries, I am very happy to see Google investing in data regions for G Suite and thrilled by how easy and intuitive it will be to set up and manage multi-region policies for our domain,” said Rob Tollerton, director of IT at PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited, in a canned statement about this new feature.

 


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