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Weekly Update - May 9, 2020: Duo, YouTube, AR

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all you moms out there!

If these were normal times, this coming week would be Google I/O. That usually showcases Google’s new software and hardware, and gives a picture of Google’s general focus. Last year the theme was “getting things done for everyone”, with accessibility, privacy and security at the forefront.

Of course Google I/O was cancelled this year. I expect we’ll be hearing at least some of the software and hardware announcements that would have been highlighted at the conference. But the company’s priorities almost certainly have shifted. Some Google products (like Meet) now seem to have a higher priority, while other projects may have been put on the backburner. And what I’ll miss is getting a glimpse of the bigger picture of where Google is heading, which I think is harder to glean from isolated product announcements.

That said, there are a number of updates this week, from Meet and Duo communication tools to cool new augmented reality features in Search. Plus there are updates for YouTube, AdSense and more.
  • Current G Suite VP and GM Javier Soltero will be heading up a team in charge of all Google’s messaging apps, including Meet, Chat, Duo, Messages and the Android Phone app. I think a more coherent vision for Google’s messaging platforms will be a good thing.
  • There are new features for Google Duo video calling. Use the new fun special effects (including one especially for Mother’s Day) and doodle in Family Mode. And, even better, group calls are coming to Duo on the web, and you will be able to invite anyone with a Google account to your call with just a link.
  • While Duo is Google’s video calling platform aimed at friends and family, Meet is video conferencing for businesses and schools. Instead of fun effects, it offers screen sharing, automatic captioning for meetings with up to 100 participants. Last week Meet was made available to anyone with a Google account. Start at meet.google.com to check it out. You can now schedule a Meet video call in Google Calendar and soon you will be able to start or join a Meet call from Gmail on desktop. If you prefer classic Hangouts video calling, that’s still available at hangouts.google.com, the Hangouts Chrome extension, Gmail and mobile apps.
  • Zoom is working to improve the security of their video calling platform. Starting this month, all meetings will require a password, which should reduce “Zoom bombing”. Plus free users will have Waiting Rooms enabled by default, and screen sharing for the host only enabled by default. And they acquired Keybase, a company that will help them build end-to-end encryption into the service.
  • You can now use Google’s AR (Augmented Reality) in Search to explore the human body and get a close 3D view of animal, plant and bacterial cells. Plus you can explore museums and cultural landmarks from home. And if you use your Android phone you can now record and share “social-worthy” AR videos.
  • Google Lens now lets you do more with text. When you use Lens on your phone, there is a neat new feature that lets you copy text - even handwritten text - and deliver it to your desktop computer or any other device where you are signed into your Google account in Chrome. Lens will also read text aloud, in multiple languages, and show you related Google search results.
  • Is your YouTube channel’s Google account secure? Are you sure? Take the time to make sure you have taken the necessary steps to help prevent it from being hacked, hijacked or compromised. Follow the steps here.
  • YouTube is introducing new ad formats for TV screens, where viewership is growing. If you are an advertiser, this may help you reach new customers. If you are a YouTube Partner, more options for advertisers could mean more revenue.
  • Now all YouTube Creators can see the audience online report in YouTube Analytics. That shows the days and times when your audience is usually on YouTube.
  • YouTuber, educator, and author Hank Green is one of the most positive voices on YouTube. This week he gave solid creator tips to Google’s Tech Exchange students. He also interviewed YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in an hour long discussion that touched on the changes YouTube has made due to the coronavirus pandemic, YouTube's competitors, monetization, education and more.
  • Twitch is rolling out new channel pages with more customization options for creators. You can now add a bio, social media links, a channel trailer, stream schedules and more.
  • Google launched the Google Podcasts Manager, a new tool that gives podcasters insights and analytics about their audience.
  • There are more than 36 million Google My Business websites. Mike Blumenthal explains why you should care.
  • AdSense has recommendations for creating content that interests your audience. You can use Google Trends to look at the popularity of search queries around the world, or Google Question Hub to discover questions Google search can’t answer. Question Hub sounds particularly useful, but it’s currently only available in India, Indonesia and Nigeria.
  • If you have a retail business, also check out the Rising Retail Categories tool at Think with Google. It has data from the US, UK and Australia showing fast-rising retail categories in Google Search and the queries associated with them.
  • Monday, May 13, you can watch John Brown, the Monetized Policy Education Lead at Google, give a lightning talk about “how the Google Trust & Safety team create and enforce publisher policies across all of Google, including Google AdSense, Google AdMob, and Google Ad Manager.” If you are an AdSense Publisher definitely set a reminder.
  • AdSense is retiring the Ad Balance option on May 20th. Ad balance let you reduce the number of ads displayed on your site, with AdSense’s automated systems determining the best paying ad units to display. If you are currening using ad balance, you should receive an email with more information. AdSense says they are going to “focus on developing our suite of blocking controls instead.”
  • If you are a large publisher, with direct ad sales for your websites and apps, consider using Google Ad Manager. Ad Manager provides tools that help you manage which ads are displayed on your properties, and prevent ad fraud.
  • The launch of Android 11 beta has been postponed until June 3rd. There is going to be an online launch show followed by a live Q&A session. Tweet your questions with the #AskAndroid hashtag and they may be answered.
  • Finally, in good news, both Facebook and YouTube are hosting graduation celebrations for the Class of 2020. Instagram has new graduation stickers and AR effects, and Facebook will host a graduation ceremony May 15th, with Oprah Winfrey, Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X, Simone Biles and Miley Cyrus. YouTube’s virtual graduation event will be June 6th and will feature Barack and Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, BTS, Sundar Pichai, Condoleezza Rice, Malala Yousafzai, and a number of YouTubers.
That’s all the updates for this week. Subscribe to get the Weekly Update in your email inbox or favorite feed reader every week. Miss last week’s update? Get it here.

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