Google begins slow death of Hangouts as group video calls now switch to Meet

Google kickstarted the slow death of the Hangouts brand a while ago, and earlier this year in April, the company officially cast the ominous shadow of oblivion on it by bringing Google Meet to the forefront. This was also accompanied by Hangouts Chat being (re)christened to Google Chat. Now, the company has started to slowly cut down the key features of Hangouts in order to migrate users to its new products. The latest one is disabling group video calls on Hangouts.

The latest version of Hangouts on both Android and iOS now shows a warning message at the top of the app’s homepage (image above) that video calls in Hangouts now rely on Google Meet. And to further sway users, the message adds that with Google Meet now in the picture, they can now take advantage of some nifty tools such as screen sharing and live captions among others.

Google Meet new UI
The new UI of 1-on-1 video calls in Hangouts

The latest version of the Hangouts app handles 1-on-1 video calls and group video calls in different manners. Now, when you open a chat with a contact and tap the video call icon in the top right corner, you’ll be greeted with three options – start a video call over Google Meet (this is a new option), start a video call using Hangouts, and make an audio call over Hangouts.

Group video calls in Hangouts now default to Google Meet.

But when you open a group conversation and tap on the video call icon, it automatically creates a Google Meet video call link and pastes it into the text field. All you have to do is hit the send button to share it with your contacts in that group. Now, to start the actual video call, you can choose between the Google Meet or Gmail apps, if you both on your phone. However, if you don’t have the Google Meet app installed on your phone, the group video call will be made via Gmail, even you’ve disabled the new ‘Meet’ tab at the bottom in the Gmail app

Source: Google Support

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YouTube’s latest experiment uses AI to divide lengthy videos into chapters

Earlier this year, YouTube introduced a new feature called Chapters – which as the name suggests – essentially divides a video into separate chapters using timestamps. I love chapters. They save me the hassle of watching the boring parts or doing hit-and-miss adjustments on the seek bar to get to the interesting part. However, chapters can only be added by creators, so you’re essentially at their mercy to enjoy this little gift. However, that dependence might end soon, thanks to AI.

As part of its latest experiment, YouTube is banking on AI that will go through a video and identify certain visual markers to break a video into chapters. YouTube says it will rely on machine learning to recognize specific text-based signs for automatically generating video chapters. So, if a video has text cues for jumping into the next section, the AI will automatically identify it and use that time-stamp to create a chapter.

YouTube chapters are quite convenient and save a lot of time.

Say for example a smartphone review video, where the creator adds frames with prominent text such as ‘build quality’, ‘camera performance’, and more in order to jump to the next part of the review. With the new experiment, YouTube says that it wants to make it easier for people to navigate videos and quickly jump to the relevant part by taking advantage of chapters.

YouTube is currently testing the AI-generated chapters on a small set of videos. However, the company will let creators opt out of the experiment, and they can also provide some feedback on how it works or can be improved. It can be a tedious task for creators, especially those with a lot of videos on their YouTube channel, to add timestamps and chapter names to each section of their older video. This is where the AI-generated time-stamp feature comes to their aid. And of course, it is a great convenience for viewers as well.

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Google directs Chrome extensions to disclose what they do with user data

Back in September, Google made some linguistic changes to the Play Store policies concerning the in-app payment system to clearly define how it is implemented. The company has now made some updates to its policy governing Chrome browser extensions, specifically around how user data is processed, to make it easier for users to understand before they hit the blue ‘Add to Chrome’ button. Google says that the update to its policy will limit the scope of what developers can do with all that user data and prevent misuse.

“Starting January 2021, each extension’s detail page in the Chrome Web Store will show developer-provided information about the data collected by the extension, in clear and easy to understand language. Data disclosure collection is available to developers today,” the company said in a Chromium blog post. Developers will be required to disclose data usage behavior directly in the privacy tab of the developer dashboard. Data disclosures collection has already been released for developers, and they will start showing up on Chrome Web Store listings starting January 18 next year.

The data usage certification that developers will be required to disclose to the users.

In order to ensure that users are fully aware, developers will have to disclose – in simple words – the type of data that their extensions collect. Plus, they will also have to show the certification that they get from Google for complying with the updated data usage policies. In case a developer hasn’t received the compliance nod from Google, a notice telling users the same will be shown on Chrome Web Store listings of their extensions.

Additionally, Google has also introduced additional policies that govern the ways in which user data can be used, some of which are listed below:

  • Ensuring the use or transfer of user data is for the primary benefit of the user and in accordance with the stated purpose of the extension.
  • Reiterating that the sale of user data is never allowed. Google does not sell user data and extension developers may not do this either.
  • Prohibiting the use or transfer of user data for personalized advertising.
  • Prohibiting the use or transfer of user data for creditworthiness or any form of lending qualification and to data brokers or other information resellers.

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Twitter fixes bug that caused Fleets to be visible after 24-hour expiration period

Twitter commenced the global rollout of Fleets – its own version of Stories or ephemeral status updates – last week to a mixed reception from users. While some users were stoked at the arrival of a cool new feature in the Twitter app, not many were happy with the arrival of ‘stories in yet another app’ where it was not really needed. Critical reception aside, the worldwide rollout of Fleets also came with a host of technical issues, one of which was Fleet visibility even after their 24-hours expiration period. 

Addressing the issue, Twitter made it clear that Fleets can not be viewed in its app once they have reached their 24-hour expiration period. However, some Fleets were visible even after they reached their maturity period due to the failure of a backend system that has a queue for deleting all Fleets after a period of 24 hours. Essentially, the queue backlog was the reason responsible for Fleets being visible past their expiration period. 

The social media giant explained that some developers saved a Fleet’s URL when it was active and were thus able to view it later due to the non-deletion of the backlog. However, Twitter has now updated the queue of its backend system, ensuring that Fleets are only visible for their intended life span. Moreover, the company also noted some users may not appear in the ‘Seen by’ list for Fleets if the list gets too long due to a large number of users seeing it

Twitter also addressed an issue that allowed people to see its take on Stories without even signing-in. However, the company clarified that Fleets are visible only when users are logged in, and the aforementioned ‘issue’ was merely a developer-specific behavior that does not pose any security risks. Nonetheless, Twitter claims to have updated its systems to ‘require an authenticated session before requesting Fleets metadata,’ to add more friction to the process which it defines as scaping. 

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Amazon Music now tells you trivia and album info about songs with its X-Ray tool

If you’ve ever watched content on Amazon’s Prime Video platform, you must have noticed that tapping on the screen shows you some interesting information about the content under the General Trivia section, alongside information about the cast that is currently on the screen. This feature is called X-Ray, which originally arrived on the Kindle ebook reader and is extremely helpful. Amazon is now bringing the X-Ray feature from Prime Video to its music streaming platform – Amazon Music.

The X-Ray feature is now available globally in Amazon Music. I’ve tested it on multiple accounts here in India, and it works just fine. As for the information offered by the feature, you can find details such as the artist’s name, writer, producer, assistant engineer, artists behind each musical instrument, and a lot more. And of course, you will get to know interesting trivia about songs. For example, I got to know that Rob Zombie was the vocalist,  writer as well as producer of the hard rock song Dragula

Regarding the feature, Amazon told Engadget that X-Ray on Amazon Music will “offer a behind the scenes look at song information, artists, and albums with access to everything from fun trivia to song credits, related content, and more.” To see details about a track, just look for the X-Ray button at the bottom of the playback page, provided the requisite details are available. 

You can either tap on the X-Ray button at the bottom, or swipe up from anywhere on the playback page to see the details. When you perform either of the aforementioned actions, you’ll see a self-scrolling carousel of information just like the credits at the end of a movie. The feature is quite neat, and won’t be forced upon Amazon Music users, unlike Amazon Prime Video, where the whole trivia and information catalog appears on the left side of the screen as soon as you tap on the screen. 

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India proposes regulation on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and more online content

Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar will now be under the regulation of the Indian government like the rest of the cable TV. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting now has jurisdiction over online content providers and online news platforms. Until now, there was no regulation for the OTT content providers like the aforementioned three streaming services. However, the Information and Broadcasting minister previously said that this was required.

Now, the online content providers and online news platforms sit alongside cable television, All India Radio, and Doordarshan as entities that fall under I&B’s regulatory framework. This comes after the I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had hinted that the government could regulate online platforms. Two weeks ago, he said: “I have called them twice to talk about a credible self-regulation method, but they have not come up with a proposal.”

Apart from OTT platforms, this new order also covers all digital content sources, which includes online news sites, videos, and images being shared online.

The President of India has now signed into law a new amendment [PDF] by the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 on November 9. It adds the below mentioned two points to the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

VA. Digital / Online Media
22A. Films and Audio-Visual programmes made available by online content providers.
22B. News and current affairs content on online platforms.

The content regulated bodies in India include the Press Council of India (governing newspapers), the News Broadcasters Association (monitoring news channels), the Advertising Standards Council of India, and the Central Board of Film Certification. The latest addition comes after the “V. Films” section in the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 [PDF, page 98].

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Department of Justice calls Google ‘monopolist’ in its antitrust lawsuit

The US Department of Justice has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating antitrust laws, just as multiple publications had reported earlier today. And the DoJ is not mincing any words here, calling Google a “monopolist” that violated antitrust laws to trounce the competition. The civil antitrust lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, aims to “stop Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.”

Google is the monopoly gatekeeper to internet that exploited its dominance, says DoJ

“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” Attorney General William Barr said. Labeling Google as the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet for billions of users across the world as well advertisers, the company has been accused of engaging in anti-competitive practices to further strengthen its position in the search and search adverting market

Google has entered into “exclusionary agreements” that violate antitrust laws: DoJ

More importantly, the DoJ’s lawsuit against Google highlights a few “exclusionary agreements” that require setting up Google as the default search engine on devices, and even preventing pre-installation of rival search services. The lawsuit highlights a few alleged “exclusionary agreements” such as: 

  • Making business arrangements that make the pre-installation of its search app mandatory on mobile devices, and ensuring that they can’t be deleted. 
  • Signing a long-term agreement with Apple that makes Google the de-facto exclusive search engine on Apple’s Safari browser and other tools where search operations are used. 
  • Exploiting its monopoly to get preferential for its search engine on devices, browsers and other access points for doing a web search. 

Google is also accused of charging advertisers more money than what would have been possible in a competitive market. The lawsuit alleges that Google used anti-competitive tactics, the likes of which are mentioned above, to keep rivals from developing and emerging as a legitimate competitor. And since Google has effectively muted any competition in the domain of search, it has led to a degradation in the quality of search for users, hampered the ‘choice factor’ and proved to be a hurdle for innovation

Google’s response

A deeply flawed lawsuit that would do nothing to help consumers

Responding to the lawsuit, Google has called it deeply flawed, one that does nothing to help consumers. The company claims people use Google because they choose to, and not because they are forced to or they don’t have any alternative. “This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use,” Google said in a blog post

Apple features Google Search in its Safari browser because they say Google is “the best.”

Addressing the “exclusionary agreements” in the lawsuit, Google says that it pays to promote its services and negotiates agreements with companies like Apple to give its services “eye-level shelf space” (or, a position in the UI from where they can be accessed easily). Talking specifically about Apple, Google says the Cupertino giant considers Google to be the best search engine, which is why it features in the Safari browser. But Apple also has agreements with rivals like Microsoft and Yahoo, and that it is quite easy to switch from Google to Bing or Yahoo search engine in Safari. 

This suit doesn’t square with either the facts or the law.

Google also cited the example of Microsoft, which preloads Edge browser with Bing as the default search engine on Windows-powered PCs and laptops. Coming to the Android platform, the company says that many brands often pre-load competing apps and app stores on their smartphones. The search giant also claims that the promotional agreements with carriers and smartphone-makers allow it to distribute Android for free. The company’s response ended with a hard-hitting argument, claiming that the lawsuit doesn’t align with facts or law.

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US Justice Department to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google: Reports

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to file an anti-trust lawsuit against Google for abusing its dominant market position to stifle competition and engaging in anti-competitive practices. Separate reports from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Associated Press claim that the justice department will file its anti-trust lawsuit today, with key points of the lawsuit targeting Google’s monopoly over search and search-driven advertisement.

Google's monopoly over search will be targeted

Earlier today, the US justice department announced that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen will hold a virtual briefing on an antitrust announcement that starts at 9:45 am ET. The anti-trust lawsuit will be filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court and will allege Google of abusing its search monopoly to choke its rivals and harming consumers in the long run. “It will also allege that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers,” a source familiar with the matter was quoted as saying by AP. 

“The department will allege that Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., is maintaining its status as gatekeeper to the internet through an unlawful web of exclusionary and interlocking business agreements that shut out competitors,” noted The Wall Street Journal report. Additionally, the anti-trust lawsuit will also target Google for pre-installing some of its own apps on smartphones running its DOJ will reportedly accuse Google of abusing its dominant market position to stifle competition and engaging in anti-competitive practices.

Google will be accused of unlawful exclusionary and interlocking business agreements to maintain its status quo

Plus, Google’s practice of allegedly prevent rival search apps from being pre-installed on Android phones will also be put into question. The DOJ will reportedly accuse Google of paying smartphone makers to ensure that Google is the default search engine on their Android smartphones. Recently, there have been calls for breaking up Google due to its almost absolute dominance in many segments. Of course, Google has vehemently opposed any divestiture or business dissevering in the past, and will likely do so while defending itself in the latest anti-trust lawsuit filed by the justice department. 

For example, Google is the world’s biggest and most heavily used search engine, YouTube is the world’s largest video sharing platform, Chrome is the most widely-used browser, Android is the world’s biggest mobile operating system and Google Maps is the most popular location and mapping service. Google has re-iterated multiple times in the past, especially in the most recent senate grilling, that the company promotes a level playing field, but regulators are not too convinced with the defense.

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Google Search, Lens, and Maps get new features to make your pandemic life easier

Google’s Search On live event was quite a busy one. The company introduced a slew of cool new features such as ‘hum to search’ for discovering songs and meaningful upgrades for Google Lens, Search, and Maps. A majority of the features announced by Google somehow touch upon the aspects of life that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and sound really helpful. So, let’s quickly recap the most important ones:

Google Maps will keep you safe and prepared

The ‘busyness’ feature on Google Maps shows how busy a place is at a given time or day of the week, helping users accordingly plan their visit to avoid crowded space, something that is of vital importance in the battle against a deadly pandemic. Google says it will increase the coverage of live busyness information to more areas such as beaches, pharmacies, and grocery stores among others, while also expanding its reach by five times.

Plus, busyness information will now be shown directly on Google Maps without even searching for a place, and while on the move as well. This feature will soon be available on Android, iOS, and desktop. In addition to real-time busyness information, users can also see a graph of how busy a place usually is over the course of a week.

Additionally, Google Maps will also show information about the health and safety precautions that are undertaken at a restaurant or shop. This information is contributed by businesses listed on Google Maps, but users will soon be able to add their personal experiences as well.

Lastly, users across the world will soon be able to use the Live View augmented reality feature to find more information about a place, such as when it opens, the busyness status, its star rating, and the safety measures it has put in place. All you have to do is just open Live View, point to a shop or building, and tap on the icon above it.

A smarter search experience

Google has announced that BERT language understanding is now used to process all search queries made in the English language. Plus, Google search now relies on a new spelling algorithm that can detect grammar and spelling errors more efficiently. As a result, it can find the right search results users are looking for.

Google search is also making it easier for users to find answers to questions that require some explanation. To do so, Google search now indexes individual passages on a webpage too, in addition to the webpage itself. Doing so will make it easier for the search algorithms to understand the relevancy of each passage and accordingly bring up results that can answer users’ queries.

Google has also started testing a new technology that will help users quickly find a particular moment or segment in a video they are looking for. AI algorithms will automatically recognize key moments in a video and will accordingly tag them, somewhat like chapters in YouTube videos. For example, a baseball match video will be labeled with time markers for moments such as home run and strikeout.

Google Lens is now even better

Google Lens is already capable of doing a lot of cool things such as recognizing objects, extracting text from photos, identifying codes, and a lot more. It is now getting even better, especially when it comes to education. Google Lens can now identify mathematics or science problems, and will accordingly show step-by-step solutions and guides to help students. This capability can be accessed from the Google app’s search bar on Android and iOS.

Another cool trick that is coming to Google Lens is an easier shopping experience, thanks to Style Engine technology. Now, when users long-press on an image while viewing it in the Google app or Chrome browser on Android (coming soon to the Google app on iOS too), Google Lens will show matching items listed on e-commerce platforms so that users can easily find more information or purchase them.

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Zoom unveils OnZoom platform to let users host paid online events

As part of its Zoomtopia 2020 event. Zoom has today announced a new platform called OnZoom that will allow users to create and host paid online events such as fitness classes, music concerts, comedy shows and workshops. OnZoom, which has now started to roll out as a public beta, is only available for paid Zoom users. The company says OnZoom is very much a part of its unified communications platform whose growth has skyrocketed with the onset of a global pandemic that has given a huge push to remote learning and collaboration. 

OnZoom will let users do everything from listing and selling tickets, promoting it via email and social media to actually hosting an event (or a series of paid online events). Users will be able to look up for upcoming events in a public directory and can pay for tickets online using PayPal or credit cards.

Zoom users will also be able to purchase tickets for friends and family members. Plus, there is also an option of donating directly to fundraiser events held via OnZoom for a good cause. And once a paid online event concludes, all virtual attendees will be able to rate it, mark it as their favorite and also share it with others. 

Only available to paid users, for now!

To promote OnZoom, the company has partnered with organizations such as WW (formerly Weight Watchers – promotes a healthy lifestyle), Life Rolls On (covers adaptive surf and skate events for people with disabilities) and Beautiful Destinations (which is all about travel and lifestyle inspirations). However, Zoom is not the only major name that has jumped in the paid online event domain. 

Back in August, Facebook announced that it will let small businesses and creators host paid online events, with the social media giant announcing that it won’t take a cut from the money raised by these events. Last month, Google also made its experimental Fundo platform openly available to all creators, letting them host paid personal chats with their fans, organize meet and greet events, and even start a workshop. You can check out more details about OnZoom here.

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OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has left the company, claim multiple reports

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has reportedly left the company he helped built from scratch alongside current CEO Pete Lau. Android Central reports, citing two sources privy to the matter, that Pete Lau has stepped down from his position as the director of OnePlus Global. As per a TechCrunch report, which also cites information received from anonymous sources, Pei has left OnePlus and is now planning to start his own venture

Pei was the brains behind OnePlus' budget-centric Nord series smartphones

“Pei, 31, is not joining Samsung, but has clarity on what he wishes to do next. He is starting his own venture, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak with the media,” the report added. Pei is yet to make an official announcement regarding his exit from OnePlus and future plans.

Earlier today, a screenshot of an internal memo that was posted on Reddit (via AndroidPolice), revealed the company’s leadership structure and interestingly, Pei’s name was missing from the list. Pei, who spearheaded the development of OnePlus Nord series and also appeared prominently in the marketing videos as well as documentary films, apparently vacated his role as the head of Nord Product Line, a position that has now been filled by Emily Dai

His departure comes at a time when OnePlus is reportedly planning to launch two budget phones – the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and the OnePlus Nord N100 – on October 26, primarily targeting the US market. Additionally, the company is also holding an event on October 14 to launch its next flagship – the OnePlus 8T. It would be interesting to see whether Pei makes an appearance at either event.

Pei joined OnePlus in 2012 and ever since, he has worked with the company’s other co-founder Pete Lau to lead the brand in its journey of achieving international fame and acclaim. Pei has been the face of OnePlus’ launch events, interactions and customer outreach programs to boost the brand’s image over the years. He is also said to be one of the masterminds behind OnePlus’ virtual marketing strategies. 

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Twitter wants you to quote tweet instead of retweeting, will restrict tweet actions

In the days leading up to the US election, Twitter has made a host of policy and functional changes to ensure that the spread of misleading information is curbed and no major security mishaps happen. Today, the social media giant has revealed another set of actions it is taking to further strengthen its commitment. 

October 20 onwards, Twitter will encourage people across the world to quote tweet rather than simply retweet something. “We will encourage people to add their own commentary prior to amplifying content by prompting them to Quote Tweet instead of Retweet Twitter says in a blog post. When you tap on the retweet button, you will directly be led to the quote tweet page so that it adds some friction to the amplification of misleading content and gives users an opportunity to add some of their own thoughts to the conversation. The test goes live for some users starting today.

Twitter will tell you why a topic or person is trending

Additionally, for the US market, all Trends in the “For You” tab will include a description or relevant content to tell users why exactly a particular topic or person is trending. Here’s how the “For You” section will look:

Plus, you will no longer see “liked by” and “followed by” recommendations from people you don’t follow in your timeline, and no related notifications will be sent either. “This will likely slow down how quickly Tweets from accounts and topics you don’t follow can reach you, which we believe is a worthwhile sacrifice to encourage more thoughtful and explicit amplification,” the company adds. 

Starting next week, Twitter will show a prompt that directs users to credible information when they try to retweet content that has been labeled as misleading. Twitter already slows down the spread of such tweets via its recommendation algorithms to reduce their visibility, and its latest decision is just another step to help users ‘make informed decisions.’

Moreover, tweets that have been labeled will now show warnings that users need to tap before they can actually see its contents. If such tweets come from US political figures or high-engagement accounts with over 100,000 followers, Twitter will also turn off the like, reply, and retweet buttons for them. Users will only be able to use the quote tweet feature for these tweets, and they won’t surface in recommendations either.

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Google boosts the security of Chrome browser for Android and iOS

Google has today announced a host of new security features that will further boost the security of the Chrome browser on Android and iOS with the release of version 86. The first one is the compromised password protection. As the name clearly suggests, Chrome will tell users that the credentials they’re allowing Chrome to remember have been compromised

To do so, Chrome sends a copy of the log-in credentials to Google by using a special form of encryption that prevents even the search giant from extracting the username and password. In case the password has been compromised before, Google will tell users to change the same, and will also redirect them to the page where they can change the password

Google is also bringing the Safety Check feature to Chrome for Android and iOS. This feature checks for compromised passwords, tells users if Safe Browsing is on, and if they are using the most recent version of the browser with the latest security tools. Additionally, the updated version of Chrome will finally enable the password autofill feature on iOS

Plus, the iOS client will also get an extra layer of security by adding support for biometric authentication. The web browsing app’s version 86 on iOS adds support for Face ID, Touch ID and device passcode that has to be entered before the autofill password feature jumps into action. However, users will first have to enable Chrome autofill from the app’s Settings section.

Additionally, the Enhanced Safe Browsing experience that arrived on the browser’s desktop client earlier this year, will also be making its way to the Chrome app for Android. Plus, the desktop and Android builds of Chrome v86 will introduce mixed form warnings. This feature alerts users when they are interacting with a non-secure element on a secure HTTPS protocol page. Additionally, it might even block potentially hazardous downloads embedded on secure pages. 

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Google Meet won’t limit the duration of your calls to 60 minutes until March next year

Google Meet went free for all users back in April, riding on an exponential growth triggered by a surge in remote working and online learning due to the coronavirus crisis. However, Google originally planned to offer an unlimited meeting duration (technically, the upper limit was 24 hours for each meeting) facility only until September 30, after which the maximum length of a meeting will be reduced to 60 minutes. However, it appears that the folks over at Google had a change of heart. The company has today announced that it won’t limit meetings to a 60-minute duration until March next year for users on the free tier. So, users still have another six months to enjoy (or suffer) online meetings on Google Meet that can last as long as 24 hours.

“As we look ahead to a holiday season with less travel and important milestones like family reunions, PTA meetings and weddings hosted over video, we want to continue helping those who rely on Meet to stay in touch over the coming months. As a sign of our commitment, today we’re continuing unlimited Meet calls (up to 24 hours) in the free version through March 31, 2021 for Gmail accounts,” Google Product Manager (Google Meet), Samir Pradhan, wrote in a blog post

Those who are on the free tier of Google Meet can conduct meeting with up to 100 people, while the individual paid tier and G Suite Enterprise versions increase the number of participants to 150 and 250 respectively. You can check out the differences between the free, individual paid plan ($8/month) and G Suite Enterprise plans here

A couple of days ago, Google also announced that the Google Meet app for Android and iOS has finally received the noise cancellation feature that was rolled out for the web version back in June. The tool intelligently suppresses background noise captured by the phone’s audio input such as typing, a door being shut, or the sounds coming from a nearby construction site. 

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Facebook’s new Accounts Center will let you cross-share posts and stories on Instagram

Facebook has long harbored plans of deeper integration and interoperability between all its properties viz. Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp. Instagram recently added a dedicated Messenger button, and earlier this month, a test started allowing some users to see Instagram Stories of people they follow directly on Facebook. Inching further towards its goal, Facebook has today introduced a new tool called Accounts Center that will allow users to cross-share their posts and stories from Facebook to Instagram. The Accounts Center will be added to the settings section of Facebook, Messenger as well as Instagram, and testing begins later this week.

But to make things clear early on, Accounts Center is an opt-in feature, which means you can stay away from it if cross-posting is not what you seek. The Accounts Center will let users control three actions – cross-posting, cross-platform login, and Facebook Pay credential syncing. Facebook is calling these three actions Connected Experiences. 

The Accounts Center will also let users sync their username and profile photo across all three apps

Starting with cross-posting, users will be able to automatically share their Facebook stories and posts on Instagram without even switching apps. Facebook is also giving users the flexibility to sync their username and profile pic across the three apps, and changes made in one app will reflect simultaneously across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. However, users can choose to keep their identities distinct across all three apps by disabling username and profile syncing.

Users will soon be able to automatically carry over their Facebook Pay credentials to Instagram

The second Connected Experience offered by the Facebook Accounts Center is Single Sign On, which allows users to log in across all three apps with a common credential and easily recover passwords. The third one is related to Facebook Pay and it will be enabled later this year for users in the US. It will allow users to enter their payment information only once on Facebook and then use Facebook Pay to do transactions on Instagram as well. 

Source: Facebook Newsroom

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