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Weekly Update - November 20, 2021: Google Meet, Google News Initiative, Twitter

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a day for feasting, family and giving thanks. Thanks to all of you for reading!

New this week: Google Meet has new immersive backgrounds, Google News Initiative offers new data analysis & presentation tools for journalists (and everyone else), and Twitter makes the case for pseudonymity. And more.

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Top Updates

Google Meet is rolling out new immersive backgrounds on the web, with “subtle animation” and different versions for different weather (sunny, rainy, snowy). Three new backgrounds will be available to everyone, with five additional immersive backgrounds and color filters available to Google Workspace and G Suite customers (excluding Google Workspace Individual customers).

The Google News Initiative supports journalists and local newsrooms with money and tools. There are new data analysis tools available to everyone, including the US Census Mapper project, the Common Knowledge Project (which lets you easily chart US local data), and Pinpoint (upload documents, then scan for names, places, patterns, even in handwritten documents).

Twitter made a “case for inclusivity through anonymity”, although what they are talking about is more accurately pseudonymity. Studies have shown that people post harassment and toxic replies under their own name, so that doesn’t stop trolling. And using a pseudonym gives people more freedom to choose how they want to present their identity and post content they wouldn’t want connected with their name.

And even if requiring real names were a net positive, there are practical and privacy reasons that would not be a good idea. Real names didn’t work for Google+, and Facebook doesn’t actually verify identities unless the name you use isn’t “namy” enough.

More of this week's updates...


YouTube’s live shopping is currently only available to a few creators, but YouTube says its goal is “to build a platform that allows anyone with a mobile device and a product to easily host a live shopping stream”. You can find current shopping streams at

Social Networks

Pinterest announced TwoTwenty, an experimental product team and in-house incubator. It will develop and test new ideas, such as the live creator events which developed into Pinterest TV.

Instagram has added a “finally feature”: the ability to delete one photo from a post with a multiple-image carousel. This is currently available on iOS devices, and coming soon to Android.

Clubhouse has added live closed captions. They are currently only available in English on iOS devices, but should be expanding to more languages soon. (And hopefully also Android).


Google Workspace Business Plus, Enterprise Standard and Plus, and Education Plus customers can now host Google Meet meetings with up to 500 participants. For other types of accounts the current meeting size limitations still apply.

Zoom free accounts will soon see advertising. Initially the ad will only be on the page you see when a meeting ends.

One of the limitations to Google Chat Spaces is that they cannot be fully deleted. Now Google Workspace Business Standard and Business Starter users will be able to delete Spaces entirely. This feature will expand to more Google Workspace users next year.


You can (soon) add people chips to a Google Sheets document, a feature already available in Google Docs. This lets you easily see the profile card and contact information for the person.


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.

Image: Cranberry sauce is a traditional Thanksgiving side dish. So delish! Cranberries by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay. Free for commercial use. No attribution required.