Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

04.20.17 | 5:57 am

Google, the world’s largest .  .  . ad blocker?

The world's largest search giant and advertising platform is considering building an ad-blocking feature directly into its mega-popular Chrome browser, the Wall Street Journal reports. It seems that Google is annoyed with certain types of ads as much as you are, and if it can help you block only those annoying ads, you might be okay not blocking all ads:

Unacceptable ad types would be those recently defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that released a list of ad standards in March. According to those standards, ad formats such as pop-ups, auto-playing video ads with sound, and "prestitial" ads with countdown timers are deemed to be "beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability."

In one possible application Google is considering, it may choose to block all advertising that appears on sites with offending ads, instead of the individual offending ads themselves. In other words, site owners may be required to ensure all of their ads meet the standards, or could see all advertising across their sites blocked in Chrome.

04.12.17 | 2:08 pm

Google Home wants to help you research your next flight

Google's Google Home smart speaker just got a new feature powered by the company's Google Flights search engine: the ability to research airplane trips by having a conversation with your speaker. You can already do something similar on an Amazon Echo using a skill created by Kayak, but Google's version lets you conclude a search by asking to track the price of the flight via email alerts from Google Flights.

Neither of these incarnations of voice-enabled travel research yet offer the ability to seal the deal by actually purchasing a ticket—an option that will surely come along sooner or later. 

04.10.17 | 12:30 pm

Google’s DoL fight shows why we need pay transparency now

Google recently touted the fact that it had closed the gender wage gap among its global employees and also achieved pay parity across races for the U.S. staffers. The search giant then shared its playbook to help other companies interested in achieving pay equity.

But the Department of Labor isn't buying it. The DOL accused the company of  "extreme discrimination" against women in a San Francisco court hearing held to get the company to provide documents relating to its salary data. As a federal contractor, the company is required to disclose data that supports fair and equitable employment practices. But Google is resisting saying the cost to do so now is prohibitive (estimated at $1 million) and that it would be a violation of the privacy of its employees. 

Google's already heavily invested in diversity initiatives and surely the brilliant minds on their teams could find a way to strip pay data of the most sensitive information. Couldn't they (and other companies) just save themselves the trouble and report the data regularly, like the EEOC wants?

[Photo: Flickr user Roman Boed]

04.10.17 | 5:46 am

Google really wants OLED displays

The company has invested $880 million in South Korea's LG Display Co. Ltd. so the company can boost production of organic light-emitting diode displays, reports Reuters. Google wants to make sure there is a continuous supply of flexible OLEDs for its future Pixel smartphones.

04.07.17 | 6:44 am

Google wants to help you know when news is fake

The company has officially rolled out its "Fact Check" tag in Google News globally, it wrote in a blog post. Now articles in Google News will display a "Fact Check" tag if the article contains information that was fact-checked by news publishers and fact-checking organizations.

"For the first time, when you conduct a search on Google that returns an authoritative result containing fact checks for one or more public claims, you will see that information clearly on the search results page. The snippet will display information on the claim, who made the claim, and the fact check of that particular claim," the company wrote.

While the easier identification of possible fake news is welcome it can also be argued that tech companies like Google and Facebook are either too unequipped or too unwilling to just stop showing you news that is patently fake and instead are putting the onus on users not to read the fake news they continue to serve up, despite the labels they now provide. Then again, both companies have argued that they are simply open platforms for sharing information and not arbiters of free speech. Whatever side of the argument you fall on, it can't be denied that the companies involved need to walk a tricky line whenever free speech is involved.

[Image: Google]

03.30.17 | 7:47 am

Google finally brings its Calendar app to the iPad

iPad users rejoice! The search giant's popular Calendar app is finally on Apple's tablet, the company announced in a blog post. Highlights of the new app include:

• Smart scheduling: "Calendar suggests meeting times and available rooms based on your team's  availability and room preferences."

• Goal targeting: "Add a goal and Calendar will intelligently schedule time for it so you can stick to it."

Calendar for iPad is a free download.

Image: Google

03.23.17 | 6:55 am

Major advertisers including AT&T and Verizon have stopped advertising on YouTube

Both companies have joined others, including Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, the Guardian, U.K. supermarket giant Sainsbury's, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Havas, in halting their ads on YouTube and on Google's display network after it became known the search giant was running ads next to extremist content, reports Bloomberg.

After the U.K.'s Times raised the alarm, Google introduced new tools to better allow advertisers to choose what content their ads display next to. However, a spokesperson for AT&T suggests that is not enough: "We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate. Until Google can ensure this won't happen again, we are removing our ads from Google's non-search platforms."

03.21.17 | 6:18 am

Google to give brands more control so their ads don’t appear next to extremist content

The search and advertising giant has introduced "tougher" ad policies after uproar in the U.K. about ads appearing next to extremist videos on YouTube. Writing in a blog post, Google's chief business officer, Philipp Schindler, said:

We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn't align with their values. So starting today, we're taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.

Among the new tools offered to advertisers are more fine-tuned controls that allow brands to exclude higher risk content from where their ads appear and new account-level controls that allow advertisers "to exclude specific sites and channels from all of their AdWords for Video and Google Display Network campaigns."

03.20.17 | 6:36 am

U.S. judge orders Google to identify people who searched for someone’s name

Don't worry, your ex won't find out you're Googling them–unless perhaps they're a victim of fraud. A court in Minnesota has ordered the search giant to release details of anyone in the city of Edina who has Googled any of the variations of a fraud victim's name, reports the Guardian. The reason Google got the warrant and not Bing or Yahoo is because police concluded that a photo of the victim used in the fraud case was likely obtained by a Google image search. The same photo is not available through Bing or Yahoo searches.

03.17.17 | 7:50 am

Google may have just found the perfect way to deliver ads through virtual assistants

Users of the company's Google Home internet-connected speaker were recently told about Disney's new Beauty and the Beast movie when they asked Home, "Okay, Google, what's my day like?" After Home told them about their schedules for the day, it added "By the way, Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast opens today," and followed that up with music and additional commentary about the movie, reports Bloomberg.

While Google told Bloomberg that the Disney plug wasn't an ad and that Home was just calling out "timely content" that may be of interest to users (sounds like an ad to me), investors and advertising people have gotten excited that Google may have hit upon the perfect way to serve ads as our computer devices go from being screen- and text-based to having an audio-only UI.

Image: Google

03.14.17 | 1:46 pm

A member of the U.K. Parliament just chewed out Google, Facebook, and Twitter for not doing more to control hate speech

Executives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter appeared in front of the U.K. Parliament's Home Affairs Committee today for an evidence session on "hate crime and its violent consequences." Committee chair Yvette Cooper was not impressed with their answers to questions about what they're doing to combat social media abuse. "In the end, it's still not enough," Cooper said, launching into an impassioned diatribe. She was especially tough on Peter Barron, a VP for Google Europe

"I would just say, YouTube—frankly, Mr. Baron, your answers on how you're implementing community standards do feel a bit of a joke, and do not feel as if you're taking your own community standards seriously and playing even by your own rules in terms of what counts as a hate crime and what should be removed. I think for both Facebook and for Twitter, there is still considerable concern about the pace at which you respond and are able to update your systems."

Cooper ended the meeting by saying the companies will be summoned back again and asked to provide more specific details on their progress. Watch the full session here or just skip ahead to 17:00 for Cooper's speech.

03.10.17 | 7:15 am

Google targets Amazon’s Web Services with an improved “always-free tier” in Cloud 

Yesterday the company launched the improved always-free tier of Google Cloud in hopes of luring away customers from Amazon's AWS solutions. The improved always-free tier now gives users free usage of a small (f1-micro) instance in Compute Engine, Cloud Pub/Sub, Cloud Functions, and Google Cloud Storage, reports TechCrunch. The AWS free tier offers similar solutions, without Google Cloud's new benefit of a virtual machine.