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Google Clarifies SharedArrayBuffer Email

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Google Clarifies SharedArrayBuffer Email

Google’s Search Central issued a clarification over a confusing message sent out last week by the Google Search Console regarding SharedArrayBuffer issues. Google also updated it’s guide to guide to enabling cross-origin isolation.

What is a SharedArrayBuffer?

SharedArrayBuffer, in simple terms, is the behind the scenes JavaScript methods of functioning that helps them accomplish their tasks in an efficient manner.

According to the Mozilla web workers documentation

“Web Workers are a simple means for web content to run scripts in background threads.”

And according to another Mozilla developer page:

“With the SharedArrayBuffer, both web workers, both threads, can be writing data and reading data from the same chunk of memory.”

Memory is important because JavaScript works with browser memory and if the page doesn’t handle it well then that can lead to unintended consequences like memory bloat.

The Mozilla developer page further explains:

“ArrayBuffers give you a way to handle some of your data manually, even though you’re working in JavaScript, which has automatic memory management.

…In a typical app, the work is all taken care of by a single individual—the main thread.

…And under certain circumstances, ArrayBuffers can reduce the amount of work that the main thread has to do.”

It goes on to explain that sometimes it’s not enough to split up the work and that’s where the above-mentioned web workers come into play, sharing the same chunk of memory.

Google’s Martin Splitt summarized it like this in 2017 when SharedArrayBuffers were a coming feature:

“JavaScript is single-threaded and long-running scripts make the page unresponsive

Web Workers allow running JavaScript in separate threads, communicating with the main thread using messages.

Messages that transfer large amount of data in TypedArrays or ArrayBuffers cause large memory cost due to data being cloned

…SharedArrayBuffers are an upcoming feature, allowing data to be shared between threads.”

Why You Received the SharedArrayBuffer Message

Google’s Search Central blog explains that the reason publishers received the “mysterious” message was because of something on their web pages is using SharedArrayBuffers, which is a coding trick to speed up JavaScript processes.

According to Google:

“The usage might be due to frameworks, libraries, or other third-party content included within your website.”

Why is SharedArrayBuffer (SAB) a Problem?

SABs became problematic after the discovery of the Spectre and Meltdown Vulnerabilities.

These vulnerabilities affect all Computer Processing Units (CPUs) and allow an attacker to read what’s in the memory. The attack affects all computer devices including Internet of Things devices.

Chrome initially suspended the use of SABs but then re-allowed them after a workaround that essentially isolated the processes.

Chrome and Firefox Change How SharedArrayBuffers are Handled

The reason for the email was an attempt to get the word out about how Chrome will be handling SharedArrayBuffers and to help publishers get on board with processes that will make their sites and their site visitors safer.

In late May 2021, Chrome 91 will be released with a new restriction that will provide a more robust defense against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

Cross-origin” is a reference to resources (like images, CSS and JavaScript files) that originate outside of a site.

So what’s going on with Chrome 91 and what Google is requiring is setting security policies on resources and essentially locking down what’s allowed according to Chrome’s (and Firefox’s) policies for protecting site visitors and publishers against Spectre vulnerabilities.

That’s good for site visitors but could be bad for site publishers who use SharedArrayBuffer objects without cross-origin isolation.

According to Google’s clarification (making reference to Chrome version 91):

“…cross-origin isolation was standardized as a way to safely enable the SharedArrayBuffer object. Starting with version 91, planned to be released in late May 2021, Chrome will gate the SharedArrayBuffer object behind cross-origin isolation.

…After Chrome 91 is released, the SharedArrayBuffer object without cross-origin isolation will no longer be functional.”

What You Have to Do to Fix SharedArrayBuffer Issue

There are two tasks that need to be accomplished.

  1. Identify SAB use on your website.
  2. Fix or remove the functionality

Identifying SAB Usage

Google recommends these steps for identifying SharedArrayBuffers:

“You have two options:

Use Chrome DevTools and inspect important pages.
(Advanced) Use the Reporting API to send deprecation reports to a reporting endpoint.
Learn how to take the above approaches at Determine where in your website SharedArrayBuffer is used.”

Google’s guide to cross-origin isolation offers instructions for using Chrome Dev Tools for identifying use of SharedArrayBuffers.

  1. “Open the Chrome DevTools on the page you suspect might be using SharedArrayBuffer.
  2. Select the Console panel.
  3. If the page is using SharedArrayBuffer, the following message will show up:
    [Deprecation] SharedArrayBuffer will require cross-origin isolation as of M91, around May 2021. See https://developer.chrome.com/blog/enabling-shared-array-buffer/ for more details. common-bundle.js:535
  4. The filename and the line number at the end of the message (for example, common-bundle.js:535) indicate where the SharedArrayBuffer is coming from. If it’s a third-party library, contact the developer to fix the issue. If it’s implemented as part of your website, follow the guide below to enable cross-origin isolation.”

Link: How to Enable Cross-origin Isolation

A Lot to Take In

This is a lot to take in because there is a significant amount of development jargon and acronyms to memorize.

The various developer pages are difficult to understand because they tend to define multiple acronyms at the beginning of 2,000 word articles then exclusively refer to the acronyms with no further explanation throughout the article, as if the reader is able to easily retain the meaning of COEP or COOP.

Citations

Official Google clarification:
Clarifications About the SharedArrayBuffer Object Message

Security header background information resource: ScottHelme.co.uk
COEP COOP CORP CORS CORB – CRAP That’s a Lot of New Stuff!

Mozilla developer page about what SharedArrayBuffers are:
A Cartoon Intro to ArrayBuffers and SharedArrayBuffers

Google developer page on analyzing cross-origin isolation
A Guide to Analyzing Cross-origin Isolation

Google developer page on enabling cross-origin isolation
How to Enable Cross-origin Isolation

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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